Kentucky National Guard Deploys Hundreds of Troops to Help with Tornado Devastation

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Guardsmen continue search and rescue missions in Mayfield, Ky.
Army Guardsmen with the 301st Chemical Battalion and Air Guardsmen with the 123rd Airlift Wing continue search and rescue missions in Mayfield, Ky. on December 12th, 2021. (U.S. National Guard photo by Spc. Brett Hornback)

More than 300 Kentucky National Guard troops have been deployed to communities devastated by weekend tornadoes that killed at least 80 people in the state, according to the Pentagon.

The Guard members are performing law enforcement duties, clearing debris and supporting recovery efforts. They are joined by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is tasked with setting up emergency power and getting critical public facilities and services back up and running.

State and federal officials were still surveying the extensive damage and searching for missing persons Monday after tornadoes tore across Kentucky and other states, including Mississippi, Tennessee, Illinois and Arkansas, on Friday and Saturday.

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None may be worse off than Kentucky, where Gov. Andy Beshear requested an emergency disaster declaration, which was granted by President Joe Biden on Saturday. The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the head of the Department of Homeland Security traveled to the state Sunday to survey the damage.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the Kentucky Guard may be the only military deployment. "We do not anticipate activations from other states with respect to this particular national disaster," he said Monday.

The Kentucky National Guard has called more than 300 personnel to duty, including 81 in law enforcement, 80 in recovery support and 44 in debris clearance, Kirby said.

The Corps of Engineers has been given two missions by FEMA. One includes debris removal, supporting critical public facilities and infrastructure assessment, as well as doing engineering and public works.

A second mission is "mobilizing a temporary power planning and response team of the 249th Engineer Battalion and additional subject matter experts to assist with generator staging assessments and installation," Kirby said.

Fort Campbell, Kentucky, was set up as an emergency staging area for the Corps of Engineers, search-and-rescue teams, and others. "Fifty-two generators, 30,000 meals, 45,000 liters of water, cots, blankets, infant toddler kits and medical equipment and supplies" were being moved through the Army base, according to FEMA.

-- Travis Tritten can be reached at travis.tritten@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Tritten.

Related: National Guard Going House to House Checking on Survivors of Tornadoes that Killed Dozens

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