CLAY NATIONAL GUARD CENTER, Marietta, Ga., Oct. 9, 2016 – Elements of the Georgia State Defense Force (GSDF) were activated this week to support emergency hurricane relief efforts. Hurricane Matthew passed close by the Georgia coast, forcing the evacuation of thousands of Georgia residents. A team of GSDF Soldiers was deployed to Macon-Bibb County to provide logistical support at four evacuation shelters. Working in 12 hour shifts, the Soldiers managed the intake and registration of evacuees, setup cots and temporary living facilities, moved equipment and supplies, and coordinated crowd and traffic control. In addition, GSDF personnel organized and delivered donations received by the American Red Cross. The evacuees came from as far north as Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and as far south as Fernandina, Florida. However, the majority were from Savannah. Over 400 evacuees were housed in the various shelters. A statement released by Macon-Bibb County officials read in part, “It was determined, based on the request from the Red Cross, that the GSDF was the best asset for this mission at this time.”
In addition to supporting relief efforts in Bibb County, GSDF personnel were also deployed to Long County to provide assistance to the American Red Cross and local officials. Members of 4th Brigade were called upon to provide shelter support, food and water distribution, and fuel delivery. The commander of 4th Brigade, Lt. Col. Yates, reported that the area was in need of food, water, and sanitation accommodations. During their time on duty, GSDF Soldiers worked around the clock with brief periods of sleep and rest for each Soldier. With 390 evacuees housed in nearby Jesup, and residents of Long County requiring assistance, Lt. Col. Yates said, “the dedication to the mission by the GSDF Soldiers has been invaluable.”
Members of the GSDF were also called upon to support the Joint Operations Center at Clay National Guard Center in Marietta. Working alongside fellow members of the Georgia Department of Defense (DoD), GSDF Soldiers provided regular updates on the activities of the GSDF across the state. GSDF staff in the center also served as a liaison between the GSDF and other branches of the Georgia DoD.
This week’s emergency relief duties come just one week after the GSDF completed its Annual Training. During the training, members of the GSDF responded to the simulated aftermath of a hurricane in south Georgia. Because of the training and preparation the GSDF completes, they are able to effectively respond to real-world events such as Hurricane Matthew.