(TNS) - FEMA has begun staging supplies at Fort Bragg as Hurricane Florence barrels closer to the Carolina coast. And soldiers and airmen across the installation are working to mitigate damage to infrastructure and military equipment.
Florence is the first major storm of this year’s hurricane season and has the potential to bring devastating winds and rain to the region.
"Our number one priority is the safety and well-being of our soldiers, civilians and their families," said Lt. Col. Mike Burns, a spokesman for the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg. "We understand that Hurricane Florence has the potential to impact our community and we are doing many of the things you would expect to prepare."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has already delivered some relief supplies for staging at Fort Bragg’s Simmons Army Airfield, according to post spokesman Tom McCollum.
McCollum said Fort Bragg also is bracing for the storm and taking steps to mitigate any damage it may cause by clearing storm drains and inspecting other infrastructure.
Burns said helicopters and other equipment that could be damaged by the storm are being moved indoors.
But as the post prepares to be hit by the storm, it's also readying to become a central part of relief efforts.
FEMA officials have often used Fort Bragg to distribute blankets, generators, water, cots and other emergency supplies to hard-hit areas following disasters. And local troops have been part of several relief efforts in recent years, including last year when hundreds of soldiers and airmen were deployed to the Caribbean, Texas and Florida following hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
On Monday, a FEMA spokeswoman said officials began transporting meals, water and cots to Fort Bragg on Sunday, with additional trucks set to arrive Monday and Tuesday.
In addition to Fort Bragg, FEMA is also staging supplies at North Auxiliary Airfield in South Carolina, the spokeswoman said.
North Carolina National Guard troops are also no stranger to hurricane relief operations.
Maj. Matthew Boyle, a NCNG spokesman, said about 6,500 soldiers and airmen from the state Guard are on standby for storm duties. Boyle said teams were working to prepare vehicles and equipment to be used in any sort of rescue operation.
“We’re just getting ready right now,” he said.
On Fort Bragg, McCollum said officials were encouraging residents to move loose items indoors.
Officials also are encouraging residents to fuel up their vehicles in case of an evacuation and to prepare an emergency kit with a minimum of three days worth of food, water and medication for each member of the family.
At Pope Field, airmen and civilians with the 43rd Operations Support Squadron and 43rd Air Mobility Squadron are stowing loose items, storing vehicles and clearing runway and taxiway surfaces, said spokesman Marc Barnes.
“They’ve also been prepped for longer shifts if needed, and have ensured an adequate supply of fuel, water, food and sleeping accommodations for our personnel, just in case,” he said.
Barnes said operations personnel have coordinated with partners across the military to ensure that critical missions continue or are shifted to other locations if necessary.
Burns, the 18th Airborne Corps spokesman, said the installation was focused on informing its families, tracking the storm, mitigating damage and preparing to respond if called upon.
He urged local families to monitor Fort Bragg's Facebook page and the National Hurricane Center website at nhc.noaa.gov for more information.
Military editor Drew Brooks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-486-3567.
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