Hurricane Irene: Panetta vows to protect troops’ families

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With Hurricane Irene nearing landfall along the mid-Atlantic coast, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta pledged to soldiers deployed in Afghanistan and elsewhere that their families would be taken care of.

‘You have my word that I will do everything possible to take care of your families who might be in the path of the storm,’ Panetta said Friday in a statement. ‘I want you to know that they won’t be alone in the wake of the storm.’


Tropical storm-force winds arrived on the coast of the Carolinas on Friday, and the core of the hurricane was expected to pass over the North Carolina coast on Saturday. There are a number of military bases in North Carolina.

PHOTOS: In the path of Hurricane Irene

Panetta urged military personnel to ‘take all necessary precautions’ and ordered them to stay in touch with their units after the storm passes.

The Pentagon’s Northern Command was working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to position relief supplies at military installations in the storm’s expected path, Panetta said. He said that 225 trucks at Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, were already loaded with equipment, food, water and generators and that additional supplies were being moved to Joint Base McGuire-Dix in New Jersey and Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts.

The supplies would be moved to affected areas, if necessary, a Pentagon spokesman said.

The Pentagon said in a statement that 18 helicopters had also been deployed ‘to be ready to provide critical life saving and life-sustaining support should it be needed.’ Ten helicopters were positioned on the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship usually stationed in Norfolk, Va., that was “moved out to sea and out of Irene’s way.’

‘It will follow in behind the storm and be ready to render assistance as required,’ the statement said.


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-- David Cloud in Washington, D.C.

View Hurricane Irene track forecast in a larger map