PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. - Soldiers from the Wisconsin Army National Guard's Company A, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team helped distribute basic resources and conduct health and welfare checks to citizens of Century Village in Pembroke Pines, Florida, Sept. 14 following the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma.
Residents there woke up after Hurricane Irma made landfall to find they had no electricity, running water or food and debris littering their community. Enter Soldiers of the Red Arrow, who arrived in Florida to help communities like this.
Dan Giustino, Pembroke Pines chief of police, said the collaboration between civilian volunteers, the police department, and the Wisconsin Army National Guard was very effective.
"We were coordinating the volunteers along with the Guard and once again that has been an incredible help," Giustino said. "It was a big operation because it is a large development. This development is about 14,000 to 15,000 people, so it's a city within a city."
Lourdes Diaz, a civilian volunteer helping at the point of distribution, agreed and said, "I think it's wonderful that we could come together when we are in time of need."
Giustino thanked the Wisconsin National Guard for their efforts.
"You've all done an incredible job, and it really demonstrates the training that you've gone through," he said.
The Soldiers of Company A worked collaboratively with the Pembroke Pines Police Department and civilian volunteers to hand out apples, bagels with cream cheese, meals-ready-to-eat, water and ice. The group also went door to door checking on the citizens of Century Village to see if they were safe and had enough resources to last them until the power could be restored.
For Pfc. Said Mahamed, an infantryman from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, this was an eye-opening experience.
"This is the first time I've ever been on an aid like this," Mahamed said. "This is great. This is what we signed up to do. I just hope everyone is safe and back to their homes and their families."
Mahamed said the volunteers and local law enforcement were very receptive to the Guard's support.
More than 600 troops from the Wisconsin National Guard were on duty in Florida helping communities recover from Hurricane Irma. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed an executive order Sept. 8, which authorized the adjutant general to call troops to state active duty to fulfill their duties as America's first military responder in times of emergency after Florida requested Wisconsin's assistance via an Emergency Management Assistance Compact request.
The Wisconsin National Guard simultaneously remains ready to fulfill its mission as the primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force. 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. Another 35 Soldiers from the West Bend, Wisconsin-based Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation deployed to Afghanistan last winter. 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.