As President Joe Biden visited Hurricane Ian-devastated Ft. Myers, Florida Wednesday, Tennessee’s National Guard was in the area providing emergency assistance.
“Aircrews from the Tennessee National Guard’s 1-230th Assault Helicopter Battalion continue to help Floridians in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian,” said a press release from the Tennessee Department of Military. “Three UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters from Nashville and Jackson, Tenn., are currently in Fort Myers assisting with rescue and recovery efforts.”
“The three aircraft flew to Tallahassee last Wednesday, ahead of the storm, and once the hurricane passed through Florida, they flew farther south,” the release continued.
The National Guardsmen have been airlifting food and other supplies to Sanibel Island, Pine Island, and Captiva Island, all of which faced the wrath of the Category 4 storm.
The have also completed evacuation missions, according to Capt. Dan Fuentes, who is the commander of Tennessee’s helicopter task force.
“We are focusing our efforts on Pine and Sanibel Islands, supporting local first responders with supply transport and the deployment of equipment to establish mobile cellphone towers,” Fuentes said. “On multiple occasions we’ve been able to evacuate citizens trapped on either of the two islands and get them to safety.”
“I really didn’t know what to expect when I got the call, but this is what we do,” Fuentes said. “This is a great chance to help and show people what the Guard is all about.”
The National Guard deployment comes amid a battle in the state over COVID-19 vaccination status of guardsmen, as the federal government attempts to remove the unvaccinated from the National Guard’s ranks.
As reported by The Tennessee Star, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) is also in Florida helping to deal with the fallout from the hurricane.
Before the storm, TEMA deployed what it calls “ambulance strike teams” for two weeks.
“Today, 35 ambulance strike team members departed Tennessee to provide support to Florida ahead of [Hurricane Ian],” TEMA said on September 28. “The teams will provide critical life-safety services to those in need. Thank you for your service and we wish you a safe mission!”
Today, 35 ambulance strike team members departed Tennessee to provide support to Florida ahead of #HurricaneIan. The teams will provide critical life-safety services to those in need. Thank you for your service and we wish you a safe mission! #TNVolunteers #EMAC pic.twitter.com/PgAUYQNx1O
— T_E_M_A (@T_E_M_A) September 26, 2022
Those strike teams were deployed from EMS departments across the state, including Williamson County EMS, the Tennessee Department of Health (TDOH) EMS, the Nashville Fire Department, and 13 others.
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