DOD, FEMA team on Irene recovery

In a week where the East Coast suffered an earthquake and a hurricane, federal agencies found their disaster response capabilities tested. The Defense Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency teamed up for the hurricane to make for effective disaster preparedness and mitigation.

As Hurricane Irene churned northward, heading first for the Carolinas and then the Middle Atlantic and northeastern states, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered the U.S. Northern Command to support FEMA with bases, personnel, ships, and ground and air transport. The military facilities at Fort Bragg, N.C.; Joint Base McGuire-Dix at Lakehurst, N.J.; Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass; and Fort A.P. Hill, Va., were designated as FEMA incident support bases where supplies and equipment were prepositioned ahead of the storm. For example, DOD officials said that 225 non-DOD trucks loaded with food, water, generators and equipment were prepositioned at Fort Bragg.

According to DOD, the Northern Command is supporting 16 FEMA-requested mission assignments. Eighteen military helicopters were deployed to the East Coast to support supply, recovery and search and rescue operations. Eight of the aircraft deployed from Fort Stewart, Ga., to Fort Drum N.Y. Ten helicopters are aboard the amphibious assault ship U.S.S. Wasp, which left the naval base at Norfolk, Va. ahead of the storm and is now moving up the coast to support recovery operations in the Northeast.

DOD also signed memorandums of agreement with states to allow for the rapid designation of a dual-status commander when and where they are needed. Dual-status commanders command both state National Guard and federal military forces on the behalf of a state governor and the president and the secretary of defense. This dual-role allows all military forces to work together in a coordinated manner, DOD officials said.

As of Saturday, Aug. 27, four dual-status commanders have been appointed:

  • Brig. Gen. James Trogden III, North Carolina Army National Guard.
  • Brig. Gen. Carolyn Protzmann, New Hampshire Air National Guard.
  • Brig. Gen. Michael Swezey, New York Army National Guard.
  • Col. Donald Lagor, Rhode Island Air National Guard.

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