Governor Steve Beshear today directed Kentucky's Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, to order the unprecedented activation of all Kentucky Army National Guard units, along with selected portions of the Kentucky Air National Guard. The activation is in response to the devastating winter storms that rendered more than a half million Kentuckians without electric power and has paralyzed most of Western Kentucky.
"This is the largest state callup of Kentucky National Guard forces in the history of the Commonwealth," said Gov. Beshear, "It represents the strongest possible effort to relieve human suffering and ensure the safety and well-being of our citizens."
The activation will place an additional 3,000 Soldiers and Airmen into the effort to address the needs of the people of the Commonwealth during this winter storm. Prior to today the Kentucky National Guard had 1,600 Citizen-Soldiers supporting the relief effort. The total number of troops on duty will be 4,600 by the end of today. This activation exceeds troop levels for the 1997 flood (1,600 troops) and Kentucky’s support of recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (approximately 2,000).
"We are now in the process of notifying these newly activated Guard soldiers and Airmen," said Maj. Gen. Tonini. "They have been instructed to report to their home armories and bases as soon as possible."
This activation does not include Guard members who are college students or who have not completed basic training.
JOINT TASK FORCE KENTUCKY
"To effectively coordinate this massive Army and Air National Guard effort, we have established Joint Task Force Kentucky to command and control five subordinate task forces arrayed across the Commonwealth," said Maj. Gen. Tonini. "Joint Task Force Kentucky will be commanded by Brig. Gen. Lonnie Culver who previously served as deputy commander of a similar task force on the Mississippi gulf coast during Hurricane Katrina recovery operations. Gen. Culver is now responsible for ensuring the unity of effort between Guard unit commanders and state and local emergency management officials as we work together across the state to assess needs and prioritize use of manpower and equipment resources. "
"This mission is nothing new to the Kentucky National Guard," Tonini added. "We have come to the aid of our fellow Kentuckians on a regular basis for more than two hundred years. What is different today is the scope of this disaster. We are committed to the safety and well-being of our neighbors and we will be on duty until the job is done."
An immediate priority has been placed on assisting in the restoration of electric power to water plants, communications facilities and homes. Troops are currently clearing routes for emergency response vehicles as well as helping utility crews gain access to damaged power transmission lines.
Establishment of shelters and points of distribution for essential supplies are also prime missions for Guard Soldiers and Airmen.
Weather permitting, National Guard helicopters will continue to conduct overflights for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet over roads that are impassable. Additionally, two helicopters have been assigned to provide support to utility companies to identify damaged power transmission lines.
In an expanded mission for the Kentucky National Guard, troops are now teaming up with local emergency management agencies, fire departments, rescue squads, law enforcement agencies and volunteers to conduct "wellness checks" for all households in Kentucky's 120 counties.
Troops have been instructed to attach green tape on the mail boxes or other locations visible from the road indicating that residents have sufficient food, power, water or communications. Red tape will be used to indicate homes where shortfalls exist.
Houses marked with red tape will be reported to local emergency operations centers and will be placed on a list to be resurveyed for on-going support based on county capabilities.
"We are fortunate to have the Air Guard's 123rd Special Tactics Squadron in this effort" said Maj. Gen. Tonini. "Their expertise in search and rescue, coupled with their access to snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, makes them valuable members of this task force."
Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard have already been on site in Western Kentucky for several days working alongside Army Guard Soldiers in distributing supplies and equipment to local citizens.
CURRENT OPERATIONS ROUNDUP
- Assist Kentucky Department of Transportation (DOT) in clearing roadways
- Transporting medical and dialysis patients to hospitals
- Deliver cots to affected areas from partner agencies to affected areas
- Transport food and bottled water to affected areas on request
- Provide power generation to critical facilities throughout the state
- Joint Incident Site Communications Capability (JISCC) with crew deployed to the Benton, Ky. area providing satellite and radio-based communications support to local authorities
- Provided satellite phones to areas in Western Kentucky
- Provide National Guard Mobile Command Post to Greenville, Ky.
- Additionally, six (6) Regional Emergency Response Network (RERN) vehicles from the Florida National Guard are now supporting Kentucky relief efforts. The self-contained, mobile RERN systems combine cellular phone, radio and satellite communications technologies to provide emergency responders with the full spectrum of communication capabilities.
See attached graphic illustrutating areas of responsibility for Task Force Kentucky.
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