SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today increased Illinois assistance to Gulf Coast states bracing for Hurricane Gustav by activating two additional Illinois Army National Guard helicopters and their crews. The crews will depart from Decatur today for Louisiana.
“Illinois is ready to provide needed assistance to help the Gulf Coast states prepare for and respond to this dangerous storm,” said Governor Blagojevich. “In addition to the Illinois National Guard, which has already answered the call for help, we have several of our state agencies on alert so we can quickly fill other requests that may arise.”
The helicopter support was requested by the State of Louisiana through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), a mutual aid agreement, signed by all 50 states, that facilitates states assisting other states during emergencies.
“We are pleased to provide this additional help to our neighbors in need,” said Major General William Enyart, the Illinois National Guard Adjutant General. “Governor Blagojevich and Illinois Emergency Management Director Andrew Velasquez jumped right on this opportunity to help. I think it says something about the character of this state and its National Guard. Illinoisans are always willing to lend a hand to those who need it.”
The two UH-60 “Blackhawk” helicopters and their crews are from Company A, 1st Battalion, 106th Aviation in Decatur. They are slated to perform search and rescue missions, air movement of critical supplies and evacuation missions. The Blackhawk is the Army’s front-line utility helicopter used for air assault, air cavalry and aero-medical evacuation missions, serving in both war and homeland security missions.
On Saturday, an Illinois Army National Guard CH-47D “Chinook” helicopter and its crew were deployed to Louisiana. The helicopter and crew from Company B, 2nd Battalion, 238th Medium Lift Aviation of Peoria, will be performing search and rescue missions, air movement of critical supplies, evacuation missions and sand-bagging of levee breaches. The CH-47D Chinook is a versatile, twin-engine, tandem rotor heavy-lift helicopter used primarily for troop movement, artillery emplacement and battlefield resupply.
Officials from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) are maintaining regular contact with EMAC to determine if there are any other requests for assistance Illinois can fill.
In 2005, Governor Blagojevich directed the deployment of more than 2,500 Illinois responders to the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina, including:
- More than 1,100 Illinois National Guard troops
- Nearly 1,000 firefighters, paramedics and essential fire support equipment
- More than 300 local, county and state law enforcement officers and equipment
- A 50-member Illinois Medical Emergency Response Team (IMERT) made up of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel
- More than 30 local and state emergency managers
- More than 100 state employees and vital telecommunications equipment