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Local Guardsmen, Volunteers Assist in Hurricane Relief Efforts

HELPING OUT – Doug Wheaton of the Latham-Dukedom F.D. is one of a number of Weakley County residents helping out with hurricane relief efforts in Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. 


Local citizen soldiers were among roughly 1,200 troops from the Tennessee National Guard that departed from multiple locations across Tennessee on Thursday, Sept. 29 to support response and recovery efforts in Florida following the landfall of Hurricane Ian.

Civilian volunteers also joined with emergency response agencies from across Tennessee and several other states in providing hurricane relief efforts in Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, which is described as the strongest storm to impact that state in over 100 years.

National Guard Response

According to information from the Tennessee National Guard, these forces, which are named Task Force Tennessee and commanded by the 194th Engineer Brigade in Jackson, will be assisting the Florida National Guard’s emergency response efforts.

Several Tennessee National Guard soldiers from Weakley County are members of mobilized units, including the 194th Engineer Brigade in Jackson, 230th Engineer Battalion in Trenton, and 212th Engineer Company in Paris.

Although the Joint Public Affairs Office of the Tennessee Military Department in Nashville is not releasing the names or specific number of Weakley County Guardsmen participating in hurricane relief efforts, unofficial sources note that local citizens are serving in these and other units.

Additionally, airmen from the 118th Wing in Nashville, 164th Airlift Wing in Memphis, and the 134th Air Refueling Wing in Knoxville have deployed to Florida, as well as volunteers from other Army and Air units across the state.

Two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters from Nashville and one from Jackson, all with the 1-230th Assault Helicopter Battalion, are also assisting with recovery missions.   

 “I commend our Guardsmen and women for representing the Volunteer State and answering the call to help Floridians in need,” said Gov. Bill Lee.

“We have a tremendous amount of experience responding to natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes and we are ready to help the citizens of Florida,” said Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes, Tennessee’s Adjutant General. “It is why we wear the uniform and once again it’s the strength of the National Guard on display. We’re grateful for the families, employers, and communities for their continued ongoing support to our Guardsmen.”

The Tennessee National Guard and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency have been communicating with their counterparts in Florida and the National Guard Bureau in preparation for this activation. States have mutual support agreements with nearby states in case of emergencies or large-scale disasters. This allows for National Guard forces to mobilize rapidly in response to emergencies in other states. Florida and Tennessee have a pre-existing mutual support agreement already in place for just such an emergency.

Local Volunteer Assistance

The Weakley County Baptist Association Disaster Relief Team is one of the local organizations sending volunteers and supplies to the Sunshine State. 

On Monday, Phil Mitchell, Director of Missions for the Weakley County Baptist Association Disaster Relief Team, said, “We have a team of three people from Weakley County Baptist and a total of 12 people from West Tennessee on their way to Florida this morning. They will be serving in the city of Wauchula, Florida. This is a city that was hit hard. I am told that there are lots of migrant workers who live there with approximately 99 percent of the city without power.

As Dr. Mitchell detailed, Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief is providing chainsaw crews, roof-tarping crews, a laundry and shower unit, as well as a flood recovery crew. He also mentioned that Kentucky Baptist Relief will provide a feeding unit, which is capable of providing 40,000 meals per day. 

“If people would like to volunteer, they can call the Weakley County Baptist Association at 731-364-3739,” said Dr. Mitchell. “Monetary donations can be given through the Weakley County Baptist Disaster Relief or the Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief Ministries.”

Among local volunteers assisting in Florida are Tommy and Karen Wilson. The couple also spearheaded cleanup efforts in Dresden following the December 10, 2021 tornado. 

Additionally, Doug Wheaton, who serves as a Latham-Dukedom Fire Department, Red Cross and Emergency Management Agency volunteer, is with the American Red Cross in Orlando Florida, where they staged response and recovery efforts after a large portion of the state was decimated by Hurricane Ian. 

“Doug has a lifetime of public service and emergency response expertise to draw from, and we’re proud that he is there representing Weakley County,” said Weakley County Emergency Management Director Ray Wiggington. 

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) deployed a Type IV A-Team and two ambulance strike teams to Florida to provide specialized support in anticipation of Hurricane Ian.

TEMA is coordinating Tennessee’s Hurricane Ian deployments through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), the nation’s state-to-state mutual aid system.

The Type IV A-Team consists of two individuals from TEMA’s Preparedness and Response Division and will deploy for 14 days to assist with resource requests and operational needs in Florida.

The ambulance strike teams include a total of 37 members and will deploy for 14 days. The teams represent departments from 16 Tennessee agencies and counties.

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