Maj. John Dunlapp of Fort Hood’s 61st Quartermaster Battalion, summed up plans for the approximately 100 military vehicles and 400 soldiers who will be providing support and assistance in the southern Texas areas affected by Hurricane Harvey: “With any mission, there’s always uncertainty.”
The first of the Fort Hood convoys departed Tuesday, with four other convoys set to leave in the next few days. Twenty vehicles had been scheduled to leave Tuesday.
According to a Washington Post article, the Pentagon has stated there could be up to an additional 30,000 National Guard troops from multiple states joining the disaster response, which already includes approximately 1,000 active-duty soldiers and roughly 12,000 Texas National and State Guardsmen.
Dunlapp said this is the first time so many active-duty soldiers have been sent to an area affected by a natural disaster since 2005, when Hurricane Katrina caused major damage in Louisiana.
The military vehicles include High Mobility, Multi-Wheel Vehicles, or Humvees, fuel tankers and flat-bed trucks hauling all-terrain forklifts. Other vehicles included Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles, or FMTVs, which are trucks.
The supplies being carried will sustain the soldiers while they are doing whatever is necessary, said Capt. Nicole Chappell, also of the 61st Quartermaster Battalion, which is part of 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command.
“We’re willing to do what needs to be done,” Chappell said.
The National Guard personnel already on site will direct the soldiers based on their assessment of the current situation, she said.
Pvt. 1st Class Charles Edmundson, of the 89th Military Police Brigade, prepared to be part of the convoy. He lived in Houston for 12 years prior to joining the Army, graduating from Westbury High School and Houston Community College.
It was difficult for Edmundson to explain his feelings about the devastation.
“My family had to evacuate,” he said. “I’m glad to be able to do my part.”
During a safety briefing prior to the soldier’s departure, Capt. Josh Marshall reminded the troops, “Safety is the No. 1 thing.”
Marshall also advised the soldiers, “Now is the time to rise up and do what’s right.”
“It’s a chance to give back to the taxpayer,” Chappell said.
Dunlapp agreed. “It’s a great opportunity to support American citizens.”
The convoy will be based at Katy High School, west of Houston. They’ll be eating MREs (Meals Ready-to-Eat), sleeping on cots and have their own water supply. Their vehicles are capable of traveling through water up to 36 inches deep, making rescue operations likely, according to Dunlapp.
“We’re ready to get the southern coast back up and operational,” he said.