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NEWS | Sept. 27, 2018

Army Reserve division brings Sandy experience to Florence response

By Staff Sgt. Shawn Morris 99th Readiness Division

In late 2012, the U.S. Army Reserve’s 99th Regional Support Command provided aid and assistance to local communities in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, receiving the Army Superior Unit Award for its efforts.

Nearly six years later, the newly designated 99th Readiness Division prepared to respond once again to a major storm hitting the eastern seaboard as Hurricane Florence made its relentless push westward across the Atlantic Ocean.

“Everybody knew there was a hurricane coming, and our sister region under the 81st Readiness Division was most likely going to get hit,” explained Maj. Vic Aviles, operations officer with the 99th DIV(R). “We identified that we would probably have to support them, and determined that we needed to stand up an Emergency Operations Cell.”

Aviles, who served as the EOC battle captain, supervised 24-hour operations for several days during Florence’s initial landfall and push inland.

The 99th DIV(R) was prepared to support relief efforts in several ways, to include providing 13 Army Reserve facilities to shelter evacuees, readying equipment such power generators and water-purification systems, maintaining accountability of Soldiers throughout the affected area, and activating several public affairs teams to provide on-site news coverage. 

“We leaned forward early in order to support our sister readiness division headquartered in South Carolina,” said Maj. Gen. Troy D. Kok, commanding general of the 99th Readiness Division. “The 99th Readiness Division worked around the clock to prevent suffering and take care of each and every one of our Soldiers, families and community members.”

The 99th was one of the first-ever Army Reserve units to exercise provisions contained within the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that allowed the Army Reserve to provide Defense Support of Civil Authorities, a role previously associated with the National Guard.

This new authority was put to the test when the 99th DIV(R) provided U.S. Army Reserve quartermaster teams with mission-essential items such as waste-water pumps, military vehicles, tents, heaters, generators, and cold- and wet-weather gear. These three quartermaster teams were part of Task Force Pump, a conglomeration of active-duty, Army Reserve and National Guard units from several branches of service that provided relief to victims of Sandy in New York City.

The 99th DIV(R) also reopened the Fort Tilden Army Reserve Center in New York City to aid the residents of nearby towns affected by Sandy, especially the seaside community of Breezy Point where more than 300 homes were destroyed by fire and flood waters.

The lessons learned during response to Sandy informed the 99th DIV(R)’s response to Florence, and will be a valuable asset as the division continues to serve the 44,000 Army Reserve Soldiers and their families throughout the 13 northeastern states.

“America's Army Reserve and the 99th Readiness Division are part of a coordinated response by the Department of Defense and Department of the Army,” Kok explained. “We are leveraging our skills and assets to save lives and mitigate loss. We bring unique life-saving and support capabilities to assist our federal, state and local partners.”