Kentucky is sending a 30-member ambulance strike team and 35 more National Guard members to Florida to provide emergency assistance with Hurricane Irma.
The ambulance team, equipped with six ambulances and a six-wheel ATV ambulance, left early Monday morning for a seven-day deployment under the direction of the Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Service.
Members of the team are from Independence, Somerset, Boyd County, Lyon County, Livingston County, Shelby County, Kentucky Fire Commission and the state Emergency Medical Services Board.
“As first responders, our first and foremost goal is to save lives,” said Michael Poynter, director of the board. “We are very proud to bring together this strike team and assist with Hurricane Irma operations during Florida’s time of need.”
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State Emergency Management officials received a request from Florida Sunday asking for assistance with ambulance services.
About 35 soldiers from the Kentucky Army National Guard’s 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade departed for Jacksonville, Fla., Monday and are expected to arrive early Tuesday, joining 20 other soldiers from the 63rd who arrived in Florida Sunday to prepare for the unit’s arrival.
The brigade is staffed to provide command and control of two incoming aviation battalions from other states outfitted with more than 30 military helicopters.
“The helicopters from our subordinate battalions should be in the area in the next 24 hours to begin helping out,” said Col. Dewayne Lewis, commander of the 63rd. “Right now we have our operations office set up to manage the aviation support throughout the state of Florida.”
Lewis said his unit “will stay as long as the people of Florida need us.”
This is the second Hurricane Irma response deployment for the 63rd in the last week. Approximately 20 soldiers and two UH-60 Blackhawks mobilized to the U.S. Virgin Islands Sept. 7 to assist with search and rescue efforts there.
This brings the number of deployed Kentucky Guardsmen to nearly 100 soldiers and airmen in recent hurricane response operations.