Marine Corps vehicles designed for assaulting enemy beachheads are now assisting in efforts to rescue flooding victims in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
While numerous Marine Corps Reserve units are on standby to assist in the storm, and more will likely be dispatched soon aboard the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge, one is already providing aid to those most urgently in need of help.
2nd Lt. Stephanie Leguizamon, a spokeswoman for Marine Forces Reserve, said 56 Marines and sailors from Charlie Company, Assault Amphibian Battalion, were currently assisting the Galveston, Texas Fire Department with search-and-rescue missions. Leguizamon could not immediately say how many amphibious assault vehicles were being employed in local search-and-rescue, but confirmed that AAVs were in use.
To date, nine people have been confirmed killed in flooding from Harvey, which targeted Houston and the surrounding area. Meteorologists predict up to 50 inches of rainfall overall in some parts of Texas, and in Houston alone, police had rescued some 2,000 people, with 185 urgent requests still pending as of Monday night, according to a Washington Post report.
The AAV company is based in Galveston, allowing the unit to respond immediately. Leguizamon said the fire department requested the unit's aid under the Immediate Response Authority, which allows the unit to provide 72 hours' worth of aid, renewable upon request.
Efforts to reach the Galveston Fire Department were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, Leguizamon said, other locally based units have mobilized and are awaiting word from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on whether they will be required to help in the wake of the storm.
"We're basically leveraging the fact that we're geographically dispersed," she said.
Units on standby include Charlie Company, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, out of San Antonio, Texas, which has five rigid-hulled inflatable boats, three seven-ton trucks, four Humvees, and 53 troops; Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773, which has two UH-1 Yankee helicopters and four Marines out of Belle Chasse, Louisiana; a detachment of additional seven-tons from 15th Marines, out of Fort Worth, Texas; and a KC-130 transport aircraft from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 234, also out for Fort Worth.
Additional units are sending personnel, Leguizamon said. They include Marine Wing Support Squadron 473, from Fort Worth, with six Marines and sailors, and one Marine from Headquarters and Support Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines, to man a command center.
Meanwhile, active-duty Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, await a potential tasking to board the Kearsarge and provide aid, likely including airlift from MV-22 Ospreys from offshore.
The brunt of the military response from the storm, however, will come from the Army National Guard, which on Tuesday awaited orders to deploy up to 30,000 personnel to provide hurricane relief, according to reports.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott mobilized the entire Texas National Guard Monday -- some 12,000 members -- in preparation for storm response.