Specially trained Alaska Air National Guardmembers help in the Carolinas

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The sun was barely up Wednesday morning as members of the Alaska Air National Guard's 176th Wing packed up gear.

They loaded-up a C-17 Globemaster III, and an HC-130J Combat King II with rescue gear that members of the Guardian Angel Teams will use as they face dangerous conditions in the Carolinas as they head south to help with the response to Hurricane Florence.

"The equipment we're taking is high water and swift water rescue equipment that the Guardian Angel Team will be using in a situation if there is a lot of flooding down in North Carolina (and) South Carolina," Brig Gen. Darrin Slaten said. "We'll be taking a lot of equipment that will support the helicopters that are on scene." The HC-130 is another piece of equipment they'll be using, Slaten said.

Guardian Angel Teams have specialized medical training, which the guard says is especially beneficial during a natural disaster.

Forecasters are warning that the Category 3 storm might now produce catastrophic flooding and rain in a larger swath of the coast and farther inland than previously predicted.

One of the pilots in the team, Maj. Andre Silva, was a little kid growing up in Florida when he experienced his first hurricane.

"Back in 1992, Hurricane Andrew, and I remember all the Guard assets coming in, giving us water, helicopter support, things like that, so it made a big impact to me as a child," Silva said.

The 176th Wing has a growing experience with hurricane relief. They have worked on the major hurricanes the country has experienced lately including Irma, Maria and Harvey.

Silva said it was a rescue mission in Texas that keeps him focused on how important the Guard's mission can be.

"One person was rescued out of the water in a helicopter and they saw Alaska patches on their uniform, and they were in Texas, and they were just amazed how quickly a force from Alaska was there to help them," Silva said.

The team will be stationed at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Once the hurricane hits, and rescues are needed, they'll fly in to help. It's unknown right now how long they'll be gone, but for now, they're expecting to be in the Lower 48 for seven to 10 days.

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