Kansas Prepares for Response to Hurricane Ike

TOPEKA, Kan. - Kansas is sending more help toward the Gulf Coast in anticipation of Hurricane Ike. More support is also being sent to Louisiana to respond to the needs caused by Hurricane Gustav.

The 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation and Company C, 1st Battalion, 171st General Support Aviation Battalion are deploying three UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, including one medical helicopter, and approximately 20 soldiers in support of operations relating to Hurricane Ike.

The helicopters and personnel are prepared to deploy and are currently on standby until weather conditions permit a safe departure.

The 190th Air Refueling Wing has been placed on alert for Hurricane Ike to be ready to send three KC-135 stratotankers to the Gulf Coast. The alert means they must be ready to fly within three hours of receiving mission orders, should the need arise.

The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services is deploying 23 individuals to assist Louisiana with the Federal Disaster Food Stamp Program.

The individuals, who come from SRS offices across the state, will train in and work out of New Orleans. The SRS personnel will assist with intake and processing, data entry, quality assurance and quality control regarding the food stamp program.

"Kansans have stepped up to help our neighbors on the Gulf Coast," said Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, "but with Hurricane Ike headed that way, more help will be needed. I'm very proud of the support our state has offered and will continue to provide. We know first-hand how far that help goes."

Approximately 600 Kansas National Guard personnel deployed to various locations in Louisiana to assist local authorities with hurricane response and recovery operations, including security missions, food and water distribution, command and control and medical support. The soldiers come from the 35th Infantry Division; 69th Troop Command; the 2nd Battalion, 137th Infantry, the 635th Armor, the 169th Corps Support Sustainment Battalion, 731st Transportation Company (Palletized Loading System), 137th Transportation Company (Palletized Loading System).

The soldiers from all of these units will begin phased redeployment to Kansas on Friday, Sept. 12. Soldiers from the 35th Infantry Division will arrive home at approximately 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 13.

The Kansas National Guard Incident Response Vehicle deployed to Port Barre, La., to facilitate communications between emergency response agencies and civil authorities. It is scheduled to start back to Kansas at approximately 9 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 12.

Kansas National Guardsmen are also on duty at the Joint Operations Center in Topeka to provide 24-hour operations support for the soldiers who are deployed.

"This is what the National Guard is all about," said Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, the adjutant general. "It's citizen-soldiers and airmen helping people in times of need, even if those people live hundreds of miles away. This is what they train for; this is what they love to do."

A 12-person Incident Management Team that deployed in support of Hurricane Gustav left Louisiana this morning to return to Kansas. Although the personnel agreed to stay if needed, Louisiana officials feared that expected flooding could result in the Kansans being unable to get out for some time.

While in Louisiana, the team performed multiple tasks and were praised by Louisiana officials for their excellent work.

"These Incident Management Teams are a vital part of our emergency response efforts," said Bunting. "Their knowledge and experience, along with their positive 'can-do' attitudes, have a huge impact on the success we have in getting the right kind of help where it's needed, when it's needed."

The personnel on the team came from the Kansas Highway Patrol, local county emergency management offices, a community college and local fire and police departments.

A five-person Incident Management Team that deployed to Mississippi returned to Kansas on Sept. 5.

Currently, there is a possibility that more IMT personnel may deploy in support of Hurricane Ike.