Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has ordered at least 520 members of the Virginia National Guard to deploy to the U.S. Virgin Islands in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Marie.
An advance team from the Virginia Guard arrived in the U.S. Virgin Islands on September 18, just before Hurricane Marie made landfall. Now, an additional 120 soldiers will be deployed this week to participate in the recovery efforts. The soldiers are assigned to the Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and will be on hand to coordinate the response. Another 400 soldiers are expected to follow shortly after and get to work helping clear debris from roads, bridges, and property. That puts the estimated Virginia National Guard deployment at around 520.
Virginia is ready to help communities facing the long road to recovery from the devastation wrought on their cities and towns by the recent hurricanes,” Governor McAuliffe said in a statement. “Commonwealth officials, the Virginia National Guard, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, and other agencies remain in close contact with our counterparts in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. We will continue to offer Virginia’s assistance for short and long-term recovery.”
So far, the Virginia National Guard has coordinated 10 different hurricane relief and aid missions in Texas, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands this hurricane season.
Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran explained that because the Commonwealth is in a position to help, they will help whenever and wherever possible.
“The Commonwealth has been able to send needed personnel and supplies into impacted areas to make a difference in the recovery efforts, and we will continue to do so for many days and even weeks to come as these impacted areas rebuild,” Moran said.
These Virginia National Guard soldiers are expected to be deployed through early October, though it is possible that conditions on the ground could either speed up or delay their return home. Once on the islands, these Virginians will be deployed on the ground by the U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp to go wherever they are most needed.
Hurricane Marie hit the Virgin Islands as a Category 5 storm, the highest classification available for a hurricane. President Donald Trump reported that the islands had been "flattened" after the storm.
Back in August, Virginia sent 40 Guard soldiers and six helicopters to Texas in response to Hurricane Harvey and the massive flooding. After the soldiers delivered the medical personnel and supplies to the storm-ravaged regions, the convoy returned home to Virginia. This came in addition to the deployment of federal response teams stationed in Virginia, such as Fairfax Task Force 1 and Virginia Beach Task Force 2, which both provided swift water rescues in flooded areas of Texas in late August and early September. Both task forces also deployed to Alabama and Puerto Rico, respectively, to help in the recovery following Hurricane Irma. This redeployment came just days after ending their Hurricane Harvey efforts in Texas.