LENIOR CITY, Tenn. (WATE) — As Ian has impacted Florida and is expected to continue bringing heavy rainfall into the state, those here in Tennessee are stepping in to help. The Tennessee National Guard has called on soldiers from all over, including here in East Tennessee, to help with relief and rescue efforts in Florida.
Their mission began Thursday as the soldiers will stop in southern Alabama for the night and continue their journey to Florida Friday morning. It’s moments like these that the deputy director of military support, Lt. Col. Dallas Clements, said the Tennessee National Guard is happy to step in and help.
“The National Guard—we take a lot of pride in being the source that the nation goes to when first responders are overwhelmed, and when our state asks, or in this case, another state asks us for assistance, we stand ready,” Clements said.
421 vehicles make up this convoy on the way to Florida after Ian continues to move through the state. They will meet up with three Blackhawk helicopters from the same unit. In total, 1200 soldiers and airmen are a part of the effort from the Tennessee National Guard.
“On Monday we started alerting units,” Clements said. “Those soldiers and airmen got the word, they called their employers, they started making arrangements with their family. We got the authorization to bring those folks into their armories on Tuesday so they could begin the loadouts.”
Units from across the state were called on. Including the 253rd Military Police Company, which includes members from Lenior City. Clements said they have to be prepared for any type of disaster response mission.
“They can expect to do door-to-door checks, rescues in a flooded environment, they may be asked to do law and order and security missions, however in most disasters altruism rules the day and security is not the major concern. It’s more about getting food and water to individuals,” he said.
Each unit will be spread across 12 counties in the Northeastern part of Florida, all of them ready to help in any way they can.
“A lot of people aren’t able to travel to go to centralized points of distribution, so it often falls on the National Guard and local law enforcement and other first responders to go door to door to make sure those needs are met,” Clements said.
It’s with these efforts that Clements said this mission will be life-changing for all involved and show them what the National Guard is all about.
“I enjoy helping people in these types of missions,” he said. “Hurricane Katrina is the first mission I got pulled into and after that I was hooked, and right now there are soldiers and airmen that are having that same experience and they’ll choose to stay in the National Guard for the rest of their careers or the rest of their lives because of what happens over the next few days.”
The mission is expected to last 21 days but that could change depending on if they are called upon to handle additional duties.