SANDSTON, Va. -- The Virginia National Guard deployed 40 soldiers and seven helicopters to Texas to help with Hurricane Harvey recovery operations. Three rescue technicians from Chesterfield's Scuba Rescue Team joined the National Guard. They flew out of the Virginia National Guard aviation support facility in Sandston Thursday morning.
Battalion chief Jake Britt will lead the Chesterfield Team.
"It's Game Day. You have to be focused," Britt said minutes before he got on a black hawk headed to Houston. "The three personnel that are going to have an extensive background with swift-water training, water rescue and are also trained paramedics."
Britt's crews have trained with the National Guard in helicopter and hoisting operations. He called those operations "always challenging."
"You have the water, you have the location. The water is moving, that's a whole different challenge. A couple of other challenges are our personnel. We never know when a person is going to do this. You never know what condition they're in, what kind of shape they're in," he said.
Britt said his team has trained extensively and has responded to situations in Virginia, but the crew has never gone outside the state for hurricane relief.
"This is a big deal for us and the National Guard," he said.
The soldiers' missions will include search and rescue, aerial damage assessments and supplies distribution.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Herbert Stover is one of the 40 soldiers going.
"We have the opportunity to be able to provide the ability to lift supplies from any location to any other location and really help out with getting people things they need," Stover explained.
Stover has been part of several hurricane relief missions in Virginia. This will be his first time in an out-of-state mission. He said no one knows what the conditions will be like until they get there.
"Water is continually moving into flooding event, so that could all change things in a matter of hours," Stover said.
The crews do not know how long they'll be in Texas or all of the challenges they'll have to deal with, but said they were ready to help families impacted by Harvey.
"We're anxious to go to work," Britt said.
"I don't have eight or 20 feet of water at my house. I would hope that somebody would do the same for my family," Stover added.
The crews have five planned stops on the way to Houston. If the weather cooperates, they hope to arrive by Friday evening.