More than 1,100 Michigan National Guardsmen are headed to Florida

Fifty-six soldiers in the Michigan Army National Guard Maintenance Unit are headed to Florida to help victims of Hurricane Irma. Many of them left Monday from Grand Ledge, Michigan. (WWMT)

More than 1,100 Michigan Army National Guard troops are preparing to go to Florida. That's where Michigan infantry units will aid and assist with Hurricane Irma recovery efforts.

It’s just 10 days since the Michigan guard sent three choppers and two dozen soldiers to help Texans with Hurricane Harvey. Those soldiers are now home safe with their families.

But on Monday afternoon, dozens of other state guard soldiers left the Grand Ledge base to prepare for a new mission. The Grand Ledge base has 56 soldiers in the guard maintenance unit that are heading to Florida.

"They need our help,” said Guard Spc. Joshua Roney, who is from Grand Rapids. “Our mission is definitely important. We need to be down there."

"I'm a 15 tango Blackhawk helicopter repairman. A general mechanic," Roney said. And with his family in Florida, this mission is personal.

"My aunt's parent's live just south of Tampa Bay. They've stayed in place. I also have my great grandmother. From what I was told she left her apartment, which was on the first floor and went to her hairdresser's house."

He and his fellow soldiers could be deployed for up to 60 days repairing helicopters.

With Gov. Rick Snyder abroad on a trade mission, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is overseeing the deployment.

"There's a tremendous amount of maintenance and repair work that is required,” Calley said. “And there aren't too many people who know how to do that sort of thing. We've got that in the Michigan National Guard and that's how we are going to contribute. I know that this will make a huge, huge impact both long term on a state that is facing a tremendous amount of devastation."

While the Grand Ledge unit left Monday afternoon, other units from Wyoming, Dowagiac, Cadillac and Detroit are gathering at Camp Grayling. On Wednesday, they will deploy to North Carolina where they will then wait to go to Florida once the weather clears.

Maj. Gen. Gregory Vadnais, with the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said "this is the largest single response to a natural disaster in the country. When we supported Katrina it was not nearly at these levels."

Vadnais said the men and women are prepared to save lives, provide security and ensure people have food, water and shelter.

Roney said that personally, he’s proud of his unit heading to Florida: “I know we were among the first to say yeah, we will go."

Nick Minock covers politics from Lansing for Sinclair Broadcasting. Follow him on Twitter @NickMinock.

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