Iowa National Guard joins Florida hurricane recovery

19 soldiers and 4 choppers depart to help with Irma aftermath

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DAVENPORT — The Iowa Army National Guard joined the military response to Hurricane Irma in Florida, deploying four helicopters and 19 soldiers Monday.

Some of those headed out just got back Friday from a seven-day mission to Texas, where they helped in the response to Hurricane Harvey.

Monday, soldiers were making last-minute checks and packing up gear and supplies at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Davenport. With some having only the weekend to rest, it was a quick turnaround.

“Definitely back to back is not something expected, but it’s something we can handle, no problem,” Capt. Chris Gericke, of Davenport, said, shortly before he and the crew of a CH-47F Chinook helicopter were to take off.

Two Chinooks and two LUH-72 Lakota helicopters were leaving Monday afternoon. The Chinooks and one of the Lakotas are based at the Davenport facility. The other Lakota is based in Waterloo.

Several of the soldiers said they didn’t know precisely what their mission would be — they’ll find that out when they get to their staging areas.

In Texas, the Chinooks were moving food, water and other equipment. The Lakotas are equipped for search and rescue missions and damage assessments, officials said.

The Lakotas can shoot video and transmit images so that, among other things, authorities are more efficient at deploying resources, said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Cory Crain, a pilot and instructor at the Davenport facility who is not traveling to Florida but was briefing reporters.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Scott Millman, an EMS pilot who lives in Cedar Falls and who has deployed to Iraq, Kuwait and Egypt, said he got 48-hours’ notice for this mission. He said soldiers were told to plan on the possibility of a two-week stint. And he expected to be busy.

“We know sometimes the days run long,” he said.

Soldiers from the units leaving Monday are based in Davenport, Iowa City, Boone and Waterloo. The state of Florida requested assistance from the state of Iowa. Both states are part of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a mutual aid agreement that involves all 50 states, two territories and the District of Columbia and commits states to help each other in certain circumstances.

The Lakotas will be based at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Fla. while the Chinooks will go where they’re needed once they arrive, officials said. It will take two days for the Lakotas to make the trip to Florida, while the Chinooks, which have larger fuel capacity, will make it in a day.

The soldiers are from the following units:

l Company A, 1st Battalion, 376th Aviation, Security and Support (Waterloo)

l Company B, 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion (Davenport)

l Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 67th Troop Command (Iowa City)

l Company C, 2-147th Aviation (Boone)

l Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division (Boone)

l Company D, 2-211th General Aviation Support Battalion (Davenport)

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