As Hurricane Irma nears Florida’s shores as the most powerful Atlantic storm on record, the U.S. military is designating ships and personnel to respond to the potential crisis.
U.S. Northern Command said in a statement it is sending urban search-and-rescue personnel to the Caribbean, where the Category 5 storm made landfall early Wednesday, to assist with lifesaving efforts and deploying Defense Department experts to help state and national partners identify ways to support those missions.
“Federal relief agencies will assess damage following Irma's movement through the region and request DoD assistance as needs arise,” it said a statement Wednesday.
NORTHCOM also designated three support bases — Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey and Warner Robbins AFB in Georgia — to support response and recovery operations if needed. The USS Kearsarge and USS Oak Hill, along with the Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, are also in the region and tasked with any potential responses.
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About 3,000 active-duty service members are still in Texas conducting support missions, the statement said. Aided by Department of Defense helicopters and trucks, those members are working on distributing supplies and supporting ongoing recovery operations along with other federal relief agencies.