By Justin Sink
The Department of Defense is preparing for Hurricane Irene, the Category 2 storm bearing down on the East Coast, and its aftermath.
The Pentagon announced that it is working to ensure both that military bases in the path of the storm would be secured and that supplies and aid would be ready after it passed.
The Defense Department has deployed 18 helicopters throughout the Northeast to aid in rescue missions, and has more than 100,000 National Guardsmen available to help in recovery efforts.
The Puerto Rico National Guard deployed to help clear roads and perform search and rescue operations when the island territory was struck by the hurricane last weekend.
But the storm also poses challenges for the military itself. The Navy moved 55 ships from Norfolk, Va., on Thursday to avoid the path of the hurricane, and Fort Monroe in southern Virginia has been evacuated. The Air Force was weighing whether to move its F-22 Raptor fleet from Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va.
The Pentagon itself was under a tropical storm warning Friday afternoon.
Panetta urged all servicemen and their families in the projected path of the hurricane "to be prepared for all contingencies."
"I can't say it strongly enough. Military and civilian members of the department must ensure that they are prepared for Hurricane Irene. Additionally, they need to stay in communication with their commands, organizations or military services after the storm passes. Accountability of personnel is extremely important," Panetta said.