Hurricanes and fires

While we are in the early months of the year, folks here and those at the National Guard Bureau have already started to think about the upcoming 2009 hurricane season. Although the National Weather Service and its Hurricane Center have yet to make any predictions about this coming season, one thing I can tell you from being at NORAD and U.S. Northern Command for the past two years, each hurricane season brings its own set of unique challenges and unpredictability.
To improve our overall preparedness efforts, I have the honor next week in participating with the State National Guard and the National Guard Bureau leadership at a hurricane planning conference in South Carolina where we will be looking at ways to better integrate state and federal response efforts. I look forward to the conference and reporting back to you on what was discussed, what I learned and what I had to offer.
Last year, our commands assisted the States of Texas and Louisiana with Search and Rescue, movement of supplies, air transportation, and a host of other efforts to affected citizens in the aftermath of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. For our collective efforts, U.S. Northern Command was recognized Feb. 10 by the National Institute for Urban Search and Rescue and humbly accept the Eagle Award from the institute after being nominated by Ed Brickley, Search and Rescue Coordinator for Texas Engineering Extension Service. In essence, the award is being given for the multi-agency coordination of helicopter air support to local and state government that rescued 400 Galveston citizens after Ike hit the Texas gulf coast in September 2008.
I am honored that we have been recognized by the State of Texas for the significant national contributions made by individual, self-sacrificing men and women within the Department of Defense. In my mind, this is not an award so much for our commands, but for the significant contributions made by the men and women of our Armed Forces who helped support our nation's first responders, many of whom risk their lives daily to help citizens in their states, counties and cities.
It is also important to note that the support of men and women from the National Guard units from states around the country provide the bulk of the follow-on response when our nation's first responders are overwhelmed. I am truly amazed at how often and how significant an impact these Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines as well as our Coast Guard partners have in supporting civil authorities. The plans and planning we have in place should make Americans feel comfortable that we have the right response matrix and personnel in place.
As I watched the news of fires in Australia, I am also very aware that, once again in 2009, we as a nation are faced with the dual threat of fires and flooding in the very near future. Let us hope the hurricane and fire seasons will be kind to all Americans. And if not, I want assure you that personnel from our commands are prepared to respond in support of our mission partners.
Cheers, Gene