States from across the nation launch to Florida to support Task Force 53 of the Florida National Guard

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Story by MAJ Colleen Krepstekies on 09/12/2017
Troops from Wisconsin and Indiana arrived in Fort Lauderdale last night, ready to provide the Florida National Guard additional support for Hurricane Irma disaster response.

Approximately 690 Soldiers and Airmen will be on the ground for an estimated 30 days to provide extra manpower and help the communities most heavily impacted by the hurricane.

"We've been working EMAC (Emergency Management Assistance Compact) with Wisconsin for about three days now," said Col. John Haas, the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) commander now serving as the commander for Task Force 53, headquartered in the Tampa Bay area. "The 53rd has responsibility for three Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) located throughout the central and southern portions of the state."

The EMAC is an agreement approved by Congress in 1996 to provide states additional response support during state emergencies, which includes natural disasters.

"The size of this mobilization taking place and all the various units coming in to the state of Florida, logistically speaking, is definitely a beast," said Command Sergeant Major Jeffrey L. Young, the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Adjutant General of Florida. "They've already pre-planned logistically the support to take care of them and to make sure they are integrated well with Florida Soldiers."

While supporting states are usually grouped by region under the EMAC, the combination of Hurricane Irma blowing through Florida right after Hurricane Harvey flooded Texas spurred the requirement to activate Soldiers from states located outside of Florida's traditional regional EMAC agreement.

"I think that the scope of this operation and what we've been asked to do reinforces that not only the 53 Infantry Brigade, but the state of Florida has shaped the types of organizations that we have both Army and Air Guard to be perfectly tailored and suited for these types of requirements," Haas said.

According to Haas, integration activities continue as Soldiers arrive in the state so they are informed about the brigade and state emergency management and civil disturbance response processes.

With the brigade assuming these additional personnel, the unit converts into a Task Force totaling approximately 3,400 Soldiers and Airmen providing support to Florida's citizens.

"Coordination has been awesome and hat's off to the statewide task force," Young said. "It's pretty large and complex and we've been well trained for combat missions and state active duty. Florida is definitely prepared for situations like this."

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