National Guard trains for a non-human enemy

By Jim Wallace - bio | email 

Bay County, FL (WALB) –  This is day 63 of the Gulf Oil crisis, and more tar balls sightings are being reported on beaches between Destin and Panama City Beach.

The 'Gators' of the Florida National Guard are getting ready to roll. "We're treating the oil as an enemy in this case, because it is threatening our homeland," said Florida National Guard Lt. Colonel Ron Tittle.

So far 80 Florida National Guard soldiers have volunteered to join the recon deployment. They will scout the beaches and shorelines for oil. Today all the soldiers drove the all terrain vehicles up and down sand dunes to get used to them.

"Fun I guess. Nothing new, " PV 2 Patrick Colbert of Lynn Haven, Florida said.

Captain Gene Redding of Jacksonville said "Along with the ATV training, we are also receiving wildlife awareness training. We want to make sure we are not damaging any of the eco system. We are here to help, not hurt."

These soldiers say this fight is personal, trying to save their home.  "I come down here on the weekends and I don't want to see my beach messed up," said Sergeant Percy Morris of Chipley.

"Here to help. Need to get it done. It's my beaches too. So I want to make sure they stay safe," said PFC Jordan Janinda.

The National Guard Mobile Operations Center and Emergency Response Network is deployed. When sightings of oil are reported, this advanced communications center will relay the reports back to Unified Command in Mobile, and clean up crews deployed then. 20 groups of National Guard soldiers will be ready to deploy tomorrow, to start the fight against the enemy, the gulf oil crisis.

We have reports of tar balls the size of your hand washing up on Grayton Beach and Blue Mountain Beach in Walton County. That's about 30 miles west of here, where tar balls are already in evidence.

The Bay County Commission met Tuesday to work on plans for more fortification booms across the pass that leads in St. Andrew's Bay.

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