More than 370 soldiers from National Guard in York, Chester and Lancaster counties have been mobilized to help South Carolina deal with Hurricane Florence.
Seventy soldiers from the Fort Mill National Guard unit were sent to help police near the South Carolina coast with the evacuation of residents as Hurricane Florence approaches, military officials said.
About 300 more area Army guard troops from York, Chester, and Lancaster counties are mobilized at area armories to prepare vehicles and machinery for the potentially devastating aftermath of the storm. Those soldiers will be deployed as early as Thursday night, and emergency officials determine where the soldiers and equipment are most needed.
The soldiers from the Fort Mill armory were sent late Monday to an armory between Florence and Myrtle Beach to help state police as major highways become evacuation routes, said Lt. Col. Marty Hanks of the Army National Guard 178th Combat Engineers Battalion.
“Those soldiers from the Fort Mill armory are part of the state lane reversal plan that needs security to make sure residents who are evacuating are moving safely,” Hanks said. ‘That will be going on through Wednesday at least.”
Because the 178th is an engineering unit with earth-moving machines and other heavy equipment resources, 300 more soldiers from area armories have been mobilized to handle damage statewide after the storm, Hanks said.
“We are preparing right now for a post-landfall recovery,” Hanks said. ‘We are getting ready right now to help wherever we are needed.”
The 178th sent soldiers to Puerto Rico in 2017 after Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. The unit also deployed soldiers to the South Carolina coast and Texas for Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The unit has helped with winter storms and other natural disasters in South Carolina and as far away as New England.
The 178th Battalion has about 600 soldiers in area armories mostly in York, Chester and Lancaster counties. Most of the activated soldiers are leaving civilian jobs to assist during the storm. First Sgt. Joe Rushing, 36, a 19-year guard veteran, said that soldiers want to help others in the state deal with what could be a natural disaster.
“We are in the guard to help our community and any community that needs it,” Rushing said.
Command Sgt. Major Peter Heggie said 178th troops will handle any task necessary to help South carolina residents deal with the storm and its aftermath.
“The community and people of this state support us - we are here to support them,” Heggie said..
More than 1, 600 National Guard soldiers statewide have already been mobilized, said Major General Robert Livingston, S.C. adjutant general for the National Guard.
“We have Guard members preparing throughout the state, ready to meet the requests from our partnered agencies and emergency managers,” Livingston said in a statement “We are well-positioned with people and as needs increase, we will activate additional Soldiers and Airmen.”