Smyrna Airport Supports Hurricane Irma Relief Efforts
Last week the Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport saw the third flight out take off from its runway for the storm-ravaged U.S. Virgin Islands.
The National Guard Volunteer Training Site hosted the 164th Airlift Wing’s heavy-lift C-17 cargo aircraft, which was transporting military vehicles and personnel to the Caribbean.
After Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the region, the Tennessee National Guard has essentially adopted the U.S. Virgin Islands under a mutual aid compact between the states and territories.
Hurricane Irma, at full Category 5 strength, caused catastrophic damage in the islands on Sept. 6, 12 days later, full-strength Category 5 Hurricane Maria battered the already worn out residents and infrastructure.
Members of the 252nd Military Police company from Cleveland and Oneida and members of the headquarters staff of the 117th Military Police Battalion from Athens are part of the most recent mission.
The military police will provide security at points of distribution for relief supplies across the islands, and will assist the six UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and crews of the 1st of the 230th Assault Helicopter Battalion of the Tennessee Army National Guard’s 30th Troop Command out of Tullahoma.
The helicopters have been on the ground for weeks since the hurricanes, distributing relief supplies to remote locations inaccessible by hurricane-destroyed roads. They’ve also supported a limited number of VIP flights for civic officials, so they can assess the level of damage across the islands and direct resources where they are needed the most.
The Tennessee National Guard support for the U.S. Virgin Islands is being carried out under the provisions of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, or EMAC, which is “an agreement between states and territories that allows for a state in need at a time of disaster to request assistance and get assistance from a sister state,” said Deputy Director of Joint Public Affairs and Chief Warrant Officer Four Nick Atwood.
“This type of mission is very gratifying for the members of the Tennessee National Guard,” Atwood said. “There probably aren’t words to do it justice. It really is what we’re about.”
“Tennessee isn’t called The Volunteer State for no reason… When help is needed, you are not ever going to have a problem getting volunteers from this state.”
The eyewall of Hurricane Maria passed directly over the island of St. Croix. The infrastructure of roads and bridges, as well as government, commercial and residential buildings are heavily damaged, in some areas, more than 80 percent.
Tens of thousands, a majority of the population, was left homeless.
In the U.S. Virgin Islands, there are more than 100,000 people across the three main islands of Saint Croix, Saint John and Saint Thomas, and the several dozen minor islands, all clustered about 40 miles east of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean.
- Murfreesboro Post, Dan Epright