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Hawaii Guard members persevere against two natural disasters


While maintaining the response to the Island of Hawaii’s latest volcanic threat from Fissure 8, the newest rotation of the Hawaii National Guard’s Task Force Hawaii was bombarded by Hurricane Lane and persevered as they stretched their resources to meet the demands of a second natural disaster in a four month period.

More than 150 service members from both the Hawaii Army and Air National Guard have assisted Hawaii County authorities in keeping evacuated neighborhoods safe since early May 2018. The lava flow has momentarily subsided and TF Hawaii was preparing to wrap up the operation.

“We were expecting it to be a pretty quiet rotation,” said 1st Sgt. Mark Tiwanak, from Bravo Company 777 Aviation Battalion. “We take over steady state (operations) and we slowly close down the operation. Should be a nice quiet mission, that’s what we were expecting. We were in the process learning the operations… when we received the hurricane warning. I knew right away I needed to identify my command team and develop communications through the ranks within a short time frame.”

The response to any disaster is tiered. Phase one is prepare, phase two is response, and phase three is recovery, once recovery is accomplished, you move back to prepare. With most disasters the response is brief and the transition to recovery quick. The thing that separates the Kilauea eruption from most disasters is the length on the response phase. The lava response has lasted four months and the county and state along with the Hawaii National Guard were ready to move to the recovery phase when Hurricane Lane approached the state.

In addition to the challenge of taking over operations, TF Hawaii was faced with the additional threat of Hurricane Lane and had to quickly change gears to prepare for the worst. Anticipating emergency responses in Kona, on the other side of the island, TF Hawaii divided its personnel and sent one of its three response teams to cover the area.

During the lava support mission, TF Hawaii ran 24-hour operations and the team was split into three eight-hour shifts. Because of the hurricane they were now divided into two teams performing 12-15 hour shifts, further straining the service members. Read more

Read also: Japan’s strongest typhoon in 25 years kills at least six

Hawaii Guard members persevere against two natural disasters