Tenn. National Guard sends airmen, helicopters to aid in hurricane relief

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WVLT) -- Six airmen from the Tennessee Air National Guard's 119th Command and Control Squadron headed to Camp Blanding near Jacksonville, Fla., Wednesday to support hurricane relief operations from Hurricane Irma.

"This is the third hurricane relief operation in which we have sent airmen to provide support," said Col. Vincent Franklin, 119th CACS commander. The unit previously helped with relief operations during hurricanes Katrina and Gustov.

The 119th CACS helps to establish communication channels when commercial systems are down. The unit provided support to first responders and the relief coordination centers after the Gatlinburg wildfires last November. They can also enable state and federal agencies to operate on incompatible communications systems so that they are able to communicate with each other.

Both the Tennessee Air and Army National Guard are preparing additional units to respond to areas hit by Hurricane Irma if the need arises.

"We are waiting to see what, if any, assets assets we can provide to assist in the Hurricane Irma recovery process," said Maj. Gen. Max Haston. "It is imperative that wait to see what the specific needs are before committing troops and equipment to assist."

Additionally, Four UH-60L Blackhawk helicopters and 34 soldiers assigned to the 1/230th Aviation Regiment in the Tennessee Army national Guard are headed to the US Virgin Islands to help in the recovery efforts following Hurricane Irma.

The helicopters were loaded up from New York and Rhode Island at Joint Base Berry Field late Wednesday afternoon.

"That's what the National Guard does," said Maj. Gen. Haston. "This is a prime example of National Guard operations, Tennessee helicopters loaded on to New York and Rhode Island Air National Guard aircraft going to assist the Virgin Islands National Guard in their recovery efforts. Once again, the National Guard lives up to its motto, and is truly 'Always Ready, Always There.'"