Pentagon readies response, evacuates military personnel ahead of Hurricane Dorian

Pentagon readies response, evacuates military personnel ahead of Hurricane Dorian
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The Pentagon is preparing to help respond to Hurricane Dorian, with more than 5,500 National Guard troops moved to staging areas in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas ahead of the Category 2 storm, top Department of Defense (DOD) officials said Tuesday.

"Even though the storm’s category has changed, it’s still a life-threatening storm, with high winds expected to affect Florida and the Carolinas over the next few days," DOD spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters at the Pentagon. "Even without a landfall, there may be some significant impacts, which we’re preparing for."

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About 80 percent, or more than 4,000, of the Nation Guardsmen are in Florida, while the remaining troops are in Georgia and South Carolina, according to U.S. Northern Command head Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy.

Another 2,700 active-duty troops are standing by if needed, he added.

The hurricane, which reached Category 5 status on Sunday before being downgraded to a Category 4 and then Category 2 storm, is headed toward the southeastern United States. The four states the Nation Guardsmen are staged in have declared states of emergency and are likely to face impacts in the coming days.

The storm has already been responsible for the deaths of at least five people in the Bahamas and is expected to hit Florida early Wednesday morning before moving to South Carolina.

National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, who also spoke to reporters, said that though the majority of National Guardsmen are in Florida, the Pentagon is prepared to shift numbers should the storm path change and move further north.

“Florida is reevaluating as we speak its posture and its required force on duty as we go,” Lengyel said.

“When they decide they no longer need them for Florida, they actually make them available to share to other states. As this storm moves north, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina will in succession, I believe, add more forces to their National Guard structures that are in place.”

The U.S. military has also begun evacuating nonessential military personnel and equipment in the Southern states, including at the Naval Station Mayport and Naval Air Station, both in Jacksonville, Fla.; at the Army’s Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia; and at the Marine Corps’ Recruit Depot Parris Island and Beaufort Air Station in South Carolina.