By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News Features, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, October 6, 2015 — National Guardsmen in South Carolina continue to fight the ravages of historic flooding from Hurricane Joaquin, the National Guard Bureau’s current-operations division chief said in a media roundtable yesterday afternoon.
While the storm skirted landfall along the Atlantic seaboard, Air National Guard Col. Rich Neely, chief of current operations for the National Guard Bureau, said more than 1,300 Guardsmen remain focused on civil-authority support missions to preserve the lives and safety of South Carolina residents, using aerial evacuations, high-wheeled vehicle rescue operations, and personnel and critical commodity transportation.
About 22 North Carolina Guardsmen and four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters with specialized hoist mounts are working with South Carolina units, and have completed more than 2,500 aerial rescue missions as of yesterday afternoon, Guard officials said.
“The flooding in South Carolina and across the East Coast is truly a historic event,” Neely said.
25 Missions Completed
“We have completed 25 missions and 21 are active. We have five UH-60 aerial assets ready to perform search and rescue missions,” said South Carolina National Guard spokesman Army Sgt. 1st Class Joe Cashion.
Operations continue to focus on evacuating residents in high-water conditions in South Carolina, including sandbag transport across the state to support dams that have broken, levees that have been compromised and roads literally cut in half, Cashion added.
Guardsmen Stood Ready Before Storm
While a wide swath of Atlantic seaboard states’ Guard units anticipated significant impact from the storm, several were drawing down missions yesterday, including those in New York, Maryland and Virginia, according to officials
Virginia’s 140 Guardsmen, assigned mostly in the Hampton Roads area, have been reduced to about 60, Neely said.
Guard units from 12 states and the District of Columbia were prepared and positioned with their state emergency managers before the storm moved away from the coast and headed toward the Atlantic Ocean, he said.
North Carolina on Guard
While North Carolina did not get as much rain and flooding from the passing storm as South Carolina, about 76 North Carolina Guard soldiers and airmen remain on state active duty, said North Carolina Guard spokesman Army Lt. Col. Matt Devivo.
“Most of our efforts [were] focused from Wilmington to the South Carolina -- a six-county area,” Devivo said, adding that Guard troops there supported local emergency management teams, emergency medical services and local law enforcement by executing six high-water rescue vehicle operations, and other missions.
“It harkens back to  Hurricane Sandy,” Neely added. “So we quickly saw a lot of states in preparation for that type of event.”
“Aircraft are ready, making rescues and staying ahead of it,” he said of ongoing efforts.
The National Guard’s advantage lies in its assets to rescue, recover and “come into communities to … take those missions and support local authorities,” Neely said.