Colorado National Guard sends communication team to Hurricane Irma

8-people deployed from Buckley AFB Sunday

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – A team of eight with the Colorado National Guard (CONG) prepared to respond to Hurricane Irma on Sunday.

CONG sent a National Guard Communications Element to assist authorities on the group during on-going response efforts.

“We're there to provide the communications, so everybody can talk -- and hopefully rescue more people,” Master Sgt. John Isbell told Denver7.

Staff Sergeant John Johnson was also on base Sunday.

“The devastation is going to be bad, but the spirit is going to be strong.”

He’s responded to a handful of major hurricanes, “Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ivan and I can’t remember the other,” now Irma.

“First thing that goes down is communications and it's the most important thing to get back up,” Johnson said.

A Colorado NGCE Joint Incident Site Communications Capability and eight Airmen of the 233rd Space Communications Squadron, 233rd Space Group, from Greeley, Colorado, flew out of Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora at 3 p.m.

The team first planned to stage in Mississippi with follow-on orders to storm-affected areas.

“We have to take all of our food and water and everything we need to survive for two weeks with us,” Isbell said.

The Guardsmen will spend between seven to 14 days away from home, responding to a disaster surely hitting close to home.

For Isbell, this hurricane hits close to home.

“My brother and sister, and my step-dad live down here in Tampa.” For others, like Johnson, the hurricane will also have an effect on his famiy.

“I have a sister who's in Atlanta, and the track shows that they're going to get weather.”

"The JISCC is tailored to support the unique nature of homeland defense and civil support mission requirements," Major Michael Holton said.

Holton is commander of the 233rd Space Communications Squadron.

"It provides non-secure voice, data, video, intra-team radio, and radio interoperability for first responders supporting the incident commander,” he said in a release.

"When we have an emergency in Colorado, we know we can count on our neighboring states to assist, so when we have the opportunity to help others, it's our top priority," Air Force Col. Gregory White said.

White is the Colorado National Guard Director of Joint Staff. He commands the military response to domestic operations in Colorado.

He added, "Our military training is transferrable to the civilian sector, and we're proud to support the professionals at all levels of the response effort."

Adjutant General of Colorado Air Force, Maj. Gen. Michael Loh, said numbers across the nation show there are more than 50,000 National Guard members helping other Americans. This includes firefighting efforts in the northwest, hurricanes in the south and southwest, and members deployed overseas.

"Colorado, alone, sent 60 Airmen and Soldiers to help our neighbors in Texas, and we have more than 300 Airmen and Soldiers deployed to eight countries, predominately in the Middle East,” Loh said.

Denver7 asked those responding to Florida about their outlook. Johnson answered, “These are my brothers and sisters -- my Floridian countrymen, statesmen. This is why I joined the guard.”

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