At Florida's request, the Wisconsin National Guard will limit its response to Hurricane Irma to the approximately 650 Wisconsin troops that already arrived in Florida, Wisconsin officials learned Sept. 12. Those en route to Florida will return to Wisconsin, while those waiting to depart will remain in Wisconsin.
“Many are suffering in the wake of Hurricane Irma, but it is good news that the storms overall impact was less severe than anticipated,” Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin's adjutant general, said. “Florida is doing a fantastic job of managing the situation with their resources and those that have already responded from Wisconsin and other states.”
More than 2,500 Wisconsin National Guard troops originally mobilized to state active duty this week after Florida requested the state's assistance via an Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) request. The state's request came as Hurricane Irma battered the Caribbean and Florida readied for landfall. The Florida National Guard as well as National Guard units from other states including Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana mobilized ahead of Hurricane Irma.
The first Wisconsin National Guard elements began moving to Florida on Sunday, while others departed Wisconsin Monday via airlift and vehicle convoys, but as Hurricane Irma weakened over Florida, it became clear that it would need fewer outside resources.
“I'm extremely proud of the professionalism and dedication of our Soldiers and Airmen in the Wisconsin National Guard,” Dunbar said. “Wisconsin's response to Hurricane Irma is an incredible demonstration of the National Guard's readiness to respond on a massive scale on short notice.”
Dunbar praised the sacrifices of his troops, many of whom put school, jobs and family commitments on hold to respond when called to duty.
“Supportive communities, employers and our families are the bedrock on which the National Guard is built,” Dunbar said. “I appreciate the flexibility of those employers, schools and families who work hand-in-hand with our troops to assist us as we fulfill our mission as America's first military responder in times of emergency.
“We are especially grateful to the state's universities and colleges that continue to work with us and our Guard members to ensure they are able to return to school and resume their studies without losing a semester,” he added.
Gov. Scott Walker issued Executive Order 254 Sept. 8, which authorized Wisconsin's adjutant general to call Wisconsin National Guard troops to state active duty to assist Florida. Their mission set will be determined when they arrive in Florida, but may include rescuing people trapped by floodwaters, preventing injuries and protecting property.
The entire 32nd “Red Arrow” Infantry Brigade Combat Team and other Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard elements were among the units called to state active duty.
The Wisconsin National Guard simultaneously continues to play an active role in global security operations. Approximately 270 Airmen from the 115th Fighter Wing deployed to Korea in August, while 110 Airmen from the 128th Air Control Squadron deployed to Southwest Asia in May, and approximately 150 Soldiers and fellow aviators from the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation deployed to Kuwait last spring. However, even with the mobilization to Florida, more than 8,000 additional Soldiers and Airmen from the Wisconsin National Guard remain ready and available to serve our state and nation, if needed.