CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A group of 14 West Virginia Army National Guard members are heading to the U.S. Virgin Islands to help with recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
Members left the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston and the JITEC military base in St. Albans Wednesday night.
Major Wally Hatfield is traveling with the group and says they plan to assess the damage in St. Thomas.
“We’ll go in there, take a look at their infrastructure, the schools systems, the water treatment facilities, the water plants and see what their shortfalls are and their initial needs,” Hatfield told MetroNews.
Cpt. Eric Wahl will be stationed at the U.S. Virgin Islands National Guard base to help them conduct their operation.
“We’re going to be helping and assisting in any nature that we can — food, water, the basic necessities, moving people, rescuing,” he said.
It’s unknown what kind of damage the West Virginia guardsmen will encounter once they arrive in St. Thomas.
“We have had a little bit of briefings on what to expect when we get down there, but right now, we’re just prepared for the worst,” Wahl told MetroNews.
The storm hit St. Thomas on Sept. 6 as a Category 5 hurricane, packing heavy winds and rising water. Thousands of homes were destroyed.
West Virginia experienced devastating flooding in June 2016, but the damage left behind from Irma was far worse, said Hatfield. He said it’s their duty to give back to these communities.
“If you recall, West Virginia went through this last June, so we’re able to pay if forward as citizen soldiers, go down there and help our fellow brothers and sisters in the islands,” Hatfield said.
Wahl said he’s also looking forward to assisting families in need.
“I’m proud to be a West Virginia guardsman and represent West Virginia,” he said. “Any help we can give — it’s a great feeling to help give back.”