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Bliss’ 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade heading to Houston

The military in El Paso is now playing a part in search and rescue efforts for victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.

Fort Bliss began deploying helicopters from its Combat Aviation Brigade on Tuesday and National Guard troops stationed in El Paso also on the way.

ABC-7 was there Tuesday as Blackhawk helicopters left the ground for the long trip to Southeast Texas, which will require a pair of fueling stops along the way on what’s expected to be a long journey to the disaster area in Houston.

“We received notification early (Tuesday) morning, about zero five a.m. for the official order giving us authorization to move,” said Major Paul Hanson from the Combat Aviation Brigade. “A large contingent of aircraft will flow out over the next couple of days, personnel from across the brigade.”

Sergeant First Class Brandon Didier, a helicopter mechanic, is making the trip.

“A lot of soldiers are ready and willing and wanting to go help,” Didier told ABC-7. “We’re bringing our stuff that we need to maintain our aircraft, so that they can stay up in the air to help fly to assist.”

In all about 50 soldiers from the Combat Aviation Brigade will be involved in search and rescue operations. Ten of the aircraft out of 25 departed Tuesday and the mission could continue for two weeks to a month, according to Hanson.

“Flight time will take about six to eight hours,” Hanson said, “total of about 10 hours with our fuel stops to get there. It’ll be likely around 24 to 27 helicopters full package by the time we send everything forward.”

Meanwhile, members of the National Guard’s 133rd Field Artillery Battalion stationed in El Paso and featuring many Texans and El Pasoans is also preparing to deploy to Southeast Texas to provide aid.

“We’re proud, we’re ready, willing and able to head out and we’re very excited to be serving our state,” said Captain Joseph Castruita. “Currently we’re still waiting to see what our mission is going to be. But it could be a number of things. All we know is we are Texans going to serve other Texans.”

ABC-7 also spoke with William Beaumont Army Medical Center Tuesday. Officials said they are required by federal law — if called upon — to provide patient care teams. So far they are still in phase one on standby, according to Beaumont officials, awaiting the possibility of phase two which would call for their activation.

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