A band of Arkansas National Guardsman is set to arrive in Houston this afternoon to assist in recovery efforts related to Tropical Storm Harvey. 14 guardsmen set out for Texas early Monday morning for about a week-long hazmat stint. Governor Asa Hutchinson deployed the team.
Public Affairs Officer Major William Phillips says the Arkansas contingent is focused on next-stage recovery and not immediate water rescue efforts.
“They’re going down to do soil, water, and air samplings to determine if there’s been any contamination,” says Maj. Phillips, “They’re going to have to wait for the storm to abate a bit so they can determine which areas have been hardest hit and then determine if there’s going to be any environmental impact because of the storm.”
He says the 61st Civil Support Team is uniquely outfitted for the situation in Texas, “It’s one of the few units we have that has both Air and Army National Guard working side by side. These guys have been trained 24/7 and this is their sole job and sole mission, to provide civil service response to emergency situations like this.”
Flooding is not an unfamiliar challenge for the Arkansas National Guard. Forces were deployed in the wake of Hurrican Katrina and a range of floods in Louisiana in recent years. Of course the guard's primary mission is to protect Arkansas soil. Members were deployed during massive Spring flooding in Arkansas, "Pocahontas was a huge mission," notes Major Phillips.
There is a possibility that additional forces or time on the ground will be needed. Phillips says the Arkansas National Guard is in daily contact with emergency officials around the nation.