4,400 Florida National Guardsmen activated for Hurricane Dorian

Helicopters, planes, boats, Humvees prepared

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With Gov. Ron DeSantis declaring a state of emergency in Florida, the Florida National Guard on Sunday said more than 4,400 soldiers and airmen had been activated to help before, during and after Hurricane Dorian.

Among those are members of a special search-and-rescue task force, the 44th Civil Support Team and SERF-P, that's based at Camp Blanding in Clay County.

"It's all hands on deck, according to our leadership," 1st Sgt. Alden Morrow, a full-time supervisor at the Florida National Guard, said Thursday. "Our team members have been notified they're preparing to congregate at a staging area, get our equipment issued and be ready to go."

The task force is equipped with potentially lifesaving assets, like helicopters, boats and Humvees.

"As soon as the winds die down and it's safe to get aviation in and we can start search-and-rescue efforts," Lt. Col. Troy Eastman, who is in charge of the Florida National Guard's search-and-rescue operations for Dorian, said Thursday.

News4Jax saw the search-and-rescue teams' lifesaving work firsthand in Mexico Beach and Panama City last year after Hurricane Michael. In May, the group invited News4Jax to follow its training at Camp Blanding and Cecil Airport. Guard members worked with search-and-rescue task forces with local fire departments, sheriff's offices and police departments, airlifting people, pulling them from the water and digging them out of rubble.

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Now, the leaders are pleased the drills were so thorough and strenuous.

"You're seeing exactly what we were doing there," Morrow remarked.

The Guard has resources stationed across the state, with thousands of service members prepared to do what's needed to protect Floridians.

"As long as we're needed, we are here," Eastman added.

Current missions include staffing and supporting the State Logistics Readiness Center (SLRC) in Orlando, and providing Liaison Officers (LNOs) to 17 counties.

Guard leaders did not release exact plans as they said the forecast was still likely to change.

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