FORT HOOD — The first of several Fort Hood units on standby for hurricane relief efforts departed Thursday for South Carolina to provide assistance after the expected landfall of Hurricane Florence.

Just over a dozen soldiers with the 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment loaded their gear into vans for the long drive to South Carolina, where they will document the military’s involvement with any relief efforts needed, in case the hurricane causes the amount of damage currently expected.

“The notification comes as a request from civilian authorities, through the Defense Department, down to the Army and then it gets down to Fort Hood,” said III Corps spokesman Col. Myles Caggins III. “The units are told when they’re needed: First we notify them so they’re ready and can start their alert procedures. They can begin packing, and when they get the green light, they can go.”

Other Fort Hood units on standby include those with military police, medical and chemical response capabilities, Caggins said. Those units will not be sent until the request is made by civilian authorities, but all are ready to go at a moment’s notice.

“We got the prepare-to-deploy order about 48 hours ago, and we’ve been working ever since to get our vehicles together, get all of our equipment and pack our stuff up to move out wherever we’re needed to go,” said the detachment’s commander, Maj. Marcus Byrne. “It means a lot to me to be able to go out and show America that their Army is here to support them and get them through this. Hopefully it won’t be as bad as they (meteorologists) say it’s going to be and Hurricane Florence dies out.”

For one soldier who has not yet been in the Army a full year, the opportunity to go on a mission to assist fellow Americans is too good of a chance to pass up.

“It’s very exciting for me,” said Spc. Connor Davis, a print photojournalist. “I’ve already had the opportunity to put my articles out ... get the Army story out. South Carolina is where I went to basic training, so being able to go back there and support the local community in a different way means a lot to me.”

The soldiers expect to arrive in South Carolina by this evening, switching drivers in shifts in order to drive non-stop and be ready to begin their mission upon arrival, Byrne said. | 254-501-7554

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