SANDSTON, Va. –
The Virginia National Guard sent approximately 40 Soldiers and six helicopters to Texas to assist with Hurricane Harvey recovery operations Aug. 31, 2017, and after transporting medical personnel and supplies, they safely returned to Virginia Sept. 6. With the Texas National Guard shifting operations from search and rescue to critical life support and logistics support, the helicopters and crews were able to return to Virginia to be ready for possible impacts from Hurricane Irma. Three rescue technicians from the Chesterfield County Fire and Emergency Medical Service Scuba Rescue Team also deployed with the Guard.
“I am incredibly proud of how quickly and safely our crews were able to get to Texas and support the multi-state, multi-agency recovery effort in the wake of Hurricane Harvey,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “We provided the capabilities Texas requested, but when we saw that we could return our aircraft and crews back to Virginia without negatively impacting the capabilities they needed, we decided that it made the most sense given the possible impact of Hurricane Irma. The mission also provided an opportunity to work with our partners from Chesterfield in a real-world situation, and that will pay dividends in the future.”
Aviation crews from the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment flew five UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and Chesterfield-based Detachment 1, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment flew one UH-72 Lakota helicopter. The Virginia National Guard and Chesterfield Fire and EMS have conducted multiple training exercises involving rescue hoist operations.
“Our mission was critical in continuing the National Guard’s medical response to the citizens in Beaumont, Texas, where the damage from the hurricane Harvey was the worst,” explained Maj. James G. Sheldon, executive officer for 2nd Battalion. “Our nation’s response to this national disaster is nothing but extraordinary with more than 19,000 Guard personnel from 27 states and numerous governmental and nongovernmental organizations reduced human suffering and saved countless lives. To be a part of Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts validates our mission and makes everyone involved proud.”
Although the Chesterfield rescue technicians didn’t fly any missions with the the Black Hawk helicopter crews, the operation validated the years of training the two organizations have conducted and provided an opportunity to evaluate their ability to rapidly respond when needed, Sheldon said.
Virginia’s contribution was a small part of the National Guard’s important role here at home and overseas, with more than 45,000 Guard Soldiers and Airmen engaged in operations all over the world, Williams said. In addition to the support in Texas, about 1,200 Guard personnel are fighting wildfires in Oregon, Montana and California, and nearly 13,000 are mobilized on federal active duty and supporting the combatant commands overseas. The Guard is also actively planning to stage personnel and respond if needed in response to Hurricane Irma.
Additional reporting by Maj. Jenny K. Hartsock