DVIDS – News – Florida Army National Guard quartermaster units support Hurricane Idalia response efforts
As soon as the call went out on Aug. 28, 2023, for Florida Army National Guard (FLARNG) units to activate prior to Hurricane Idalia’s landfall, Guardsmen of the 856th and the 356th Quartermaster Companies were already reporting to the State Logistics Response Center (SLRC) in Orlando, Florida.
The SLRC is a warehouse that provides approximately 200,000 square feet to house food, water and other emergency commodities for distribution to impacted regions after a natural disaster.
The overall disaster relief operation throughout the Sunshine State is a combined effort of the Florida National Guard, civilian emergency management agencies, and contracted businesses that requires smooth interoperability between multiple organizations to execute.
According to Army 1st Sgt. Rhett Roy, 856th Quartermaster Company first sergeant, when responding to a natural disaster, a county’s emergency operations center (EOC) first reports the type and quantity of emergency commodities they need to the state-level EOC. Florida’s state EOC then tasks the SLRC with providing those requested commodities, which is where Soldiers assigned to the 856th and 356th Quartermaster Companies play an important role in the process.
During Idalia, they sustained 24-hour operations at the SLRC to support various counties’ requests, maintain the necessary accountability for commodities, and track those commodities’ movements to final destinations across Florida.
“We’re in the logistics business here in Orlando, so we verify that the other end needs the items in their request, and make sure they have what they need to take delivery,” Roy said. “We ask things like: Do you have the infrastructure, like a dock, to receive the items? Do you have forklifts to unload the commodities? Do you have enough space to turn a 53-foot trailer around? Do you have power and lights? Are you running 24-hour operations? These are simple questions, but if they aren’t addressed ahead of time, these issues can complicate things.”
Roy said the commodities leave the SLRC on trucks bound for logistics staging areas (LSA) near the impacted areas, and from those LSAs to point-of-distribution sites, also known as “PODS.” PODS can be the parking lot of a church, a shopping center, or another location that a county EOC has predesignated as part of its emergency action plan, where Floridians can drive through and have those emergency commodities loaded into their cars.
“I expect us to get busier [in the days after landfall],” Roy said on Aug. 30, 2023, the third day of his unit’s activation. “We’re one of the first units to get called to state active duty and we’re the last ones to leave because we also have to recover all the equipment that is sent out to the PODS.”
Despite the potential danger, a hurricane activation also provides valuable training opportunities for junior Soldiers to learn about disaster relief, and how their unit’s role – for example, in conducting warehouse operations – works in the big picture. While Roy has lost count of how many hurricane activations he has experienced (he estimates “about a couple dozen”), Army Spc. Domenica Roldan, an automated logistical specialist, had only completed four weekend drills with the 856th when she volunteered for activation.
“I wanted to come and see how it works to get the experience,” Roldan said. “This activation has been great for learning. I’ve been working with great people, and I feel good that we’re able to help the State of Florida.”
Roldan wasn’t the only first-timer to get introduced to hurricane duty. The FLARNG’s activation for Idalia also marked the operational debut of the recently revived Florida State Guard (FSG), whose mission was to support the Florida National Guard’s hurricane relief efforts. The FSG was originally established in 1941 to assume the FLARNG’s duties while it was deployed overseas during World War II, and it later disbanded in 1947. The FSG was officially reactivated in 2022 and its inaugural class of Guardsmen graduated from Basic Operational Orientation Training (BOOT) Camp last June.
“We will assist the Florida National Guard and any other emergency management agencies that need our help to do anything that we can,” said FSG 1st Sgt. Rich Bahret, a former Marine and Pinellas County deputy sheriff, who now serves as first sergeant for the Florida State Guard’s Company B. According to Bahret, the FSG consists of approximately 120 men and women who range from an 18-year-old grocery store worker with no military experience, to a 60-year-old former SEAL team member. “It’s the most diverse group I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with in my life.”
Roy said he expects to have a good relationship with the FSG members going forward.
“We’ve taken them under our wing,” Roy said. “They have their own chain of command to work parallel with us, and they all have a positive, can-do attitude to be a force multiplier as they were intended to be. They’re already out there [in the warehouse] driving forklifts and running floor sweepers – they’ve been great for us.”
The 856th and the 356th Quartermaster Companies are FLARNG units based in Arcadia and Fort Lauderdale, respectively, within the 50th Regional Support Group.
|Date Posted:||09.01.2023 14:29|
|Location:||ORLANDO, FL, US|
This work, Florida Army National Guard quartermaster units support Hurricane Idalia response efforts, by SFC Shane Klestinski, identified by DVIDS, must comply with the restrictions shown on https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright.