Soldiers Support Shelter Operations during Hurricane Irma

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Story by SGT Debra Cook on 09/11/2017
A sense of urgency filled the room in preparation for the morning shift change in the Tactical Operations Center as Florida National Guard Soldiers waited for the latest update on Hurricane Irma at the Ronald O. Harrison National Guard Readiness Center in Miramar.

U.S. Army Capt. John Beamer, Assistant Operations Officer for the 1-124 Infantry Battalion, addressed the unit.

"Make sure your analog products are ready to go and all your personal gear is packed and ready to go tonight," he said. "Think about your computers, your boards, we are going to jump somewhere somehow. Don't wait for the order, get ready now."

The battalion's intelligence section runs the tactical terrain team, which facilitates information flow from the National Weather Center in Miami to military commanders regarding what to expect and potential hazards. Primary concerns surrounding Hurricane Irma include road blockage and flooding along the state's east and west coasts.

Staff Sgt. Jessica Hammett and Spc. Doug Nesmith, members of the unit's tactical terrain team, hung maps sprinkled with red pins marking hurricane evacuation centers and hospitals locations.

"It's our job to track the weather and identify potential hazards for at-risk shelters," said Hammett.

In preparation for the in-bound hurricane, Miami-Dade County and the Florida National Guard worked together to establish shelters to temporarily house displaced citizens. In total, the 1-124th Infantry Battalion Soldiers are providing security and other logistical support to 29 shelters throughout the Miami-Dade County.

Due to the rapid activation of approximately 7,000 Florida National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, many had to do their own personal evacuations before they reported for duty.

Hammett said she left her 7-year-old son with his father at a safe location and Nesmith bid goodbye to his baby and his expectant wife before they traveled north to wait out the storm in New York.

Hammett said she enjoys the humanitarian aspect of helping people in need, which is part of the reason she voluntarily signed up for military service.

Fellow Guardsman 2 Lt. Erik Honig agreed, and shared that his deployment while overseas in Africa provided the experience to help him with the battalion's response to Hurricane Irma.

"It takes a lot to move the battalion," said Honig. "We moved our entire battalion where it takes a lot of manpower. Issues are flooding and [assessing] where best location and distance to drive to help individuals via security and rescue and recovery maintaining that presence deters a lot of crimes and looting from happening. It makes people feel better."

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