HELENA – Montana Army National Guard soldiers were hard at work on Sunday at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Helena, getting ready for a trip across the country.
“We’ve got a lot of logistics that have to be done to get going,” said Lt. Alex Beveridge. “It’s a big process that goes into it, and you’ve got a lot of people working really hard to get us done and sent out the door.”
Beveridge, a Chinook helicopter pilot, was among 19 Guard soldiers who left for the East Coast to help with the response to Hurricane Florence.
They will make a two-day trip from Montana to Maryland in one Chinook and two Black Hawk helicopters. Some additional mechanics will join them later on.
The Montana troops will provide much-needed additional air support as the relief efforts move forward. From Maryland, they will be staged and available to help the response in any way necessary.
“We’re expecting to do anything from search and rescue missions to resupply, or just stand by as needed and help out as we can,” said Maj. Luke Eidt, who will serve as a liaison between the Montana Guard and the other agencies they will be assisting.
One of the Black Hawks is a specialized medevac helicopter used for transporting injured people. Eidt said the other helicopters will likely be used for things like moving personnel and supplies.
The Montana Guard responded to a call for assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), a nationwide system that lets states request and share resources during times of need.
EMAC has previously been used to bring National Guard troops from other states to assist with Montana wildfires. “Other states come here to help us out and we go there,” said Beveridge. “It’s really a big family with the Guard.”
Eidt said the Montana soldiers will remain on the East Coast for as long as they’re needed.
“That’s what we raised our right hand to do, to go help the citizens and help where needed, our brethren in the Guard especially,” he said.
The Montana National Guard has previously sent air support for disasters like the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and 2014’s severe wildfires in Washington state.
-Jonathon Ambarian reporting for MTN News