The Pentagon has identified two warships, hundreds of vehicles, dozens of aircraft and more than 400 troops that could be made available to respond to emergencies for hurricane relief in the next 24 hours in the Hurricane Harvey-ravaged Texas.
Two U.S. Navy warships, the USS Kearsarge and the USS Oak Hill, are also being deployed to Texas, where the disaster has claimed at least 20 lives, the Navy announced Wednesday.
The Oak Hill, a smaller dock landing ship, will bring supplies and join the Kearsarge in supporting “federal, state and local authorities ongoing relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey,” according to the Navy.
‘We are leaning as far forward as we possibly can to ensure that military assets are postured to support the needs of Texas and, potentially, Louisiana,” Maj. Gen. James Witham, Director of Domestic Operations at the National Guard Bureau, said.
About 30,000 more Guard members stood ready to assist in responding to hurricane relief efforts if needed as response to Hurricane Harvey will be a long-term, sustained effort, Witham said, in a statement by Department of Defense.
“More than 4,300 Guard members were already on duty in Texas, primarily assisting local authorities with search and rescue operations, while the entire Texas National Guard, numbering around 12,000 soldiers and airmen, have been called up to work,” he said.
Witham said some 30 helicopters are now in use by Guard aircrews, the general said, and additional helicopter assets have been requested through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which allows Guard elements from one state to assist in other states in emergencies.
Aircrews are supporting not only airborne search and rescue efforts with hoist capacity, but also medical evacuation capacity as required, Witham said.
“As you talk response and recovery, our response is very sustained,” Witham said, adding that the storm’s unprecedented amount of rainfall has made for a different sort of hurricane response.
“When the Guard responds to hurricane-type events, normally we talk about that first 72 to 96 hours for the lifesaving and life-sustaining that takes place. Then, we’re into the recovery effort.
“Due to the nature of this storm as it spun across southeast Texas for days and dumped historic levels of rainfall, our response has been very different than what we’ve looked at before.”
The U S. Coast Guard has 39 helicopters and seven airplanes stationed at two operating bases in New Orleans and Houston available for rescue response efforts in Texas and Louisiana, according to a tweet from the service.
The H-65 Dolphin and HH-60 Jayhawk are the two helicopters primarily used by the Coast Guard while the C-130 aircraft serves as the service’s main fixed-wing cargo plane.
The U.S. Marine Corps is deploying 690 U.S. Marines aboard the USS Kearsarge and the USS Oak Hill set to sail on Thursday.
The official said additional aviation assets will include: eight MV-22B Ospreys, three CH-53E Super Stallions and three UH-1Y Hueys. In addition to the air assets, the Marines will also have water purification and storage capability.