BELLINGHAM, Wash. – In order to assist with search-and-rescue efforts in the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Harvey, the Bellingham Air and Marine Branch of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) deployed aircraft and crew members to the Houston area.
“When a disaster strikes, life preservation and the safe evacuation of people in impacted areas becomes our number one priority,” said Mark Svacha, Deputy Director, Air Operations, Bellingham Air and Marine Branch. “Our pilots and crew members are well-trained in search-and-rescue techniques and are helping to save lives in areas affected by the storm. We will continue to provide assistance as long as necessary.”
To date, the branch deployed a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and a Multi-Role Enforcement Aircraft crews. The Bellingham Air and Marine Branch has also sent an AS-350 helicopter, manned with Air Interdiction Agents from the Spokane Air Unit, which is expected to arrive in the Houston area on Thursday. Additionally, a Marine Interdiction Agent out of Port Angeles, who is certified as an emergency medical technician with the Air and Marine Emergency Medical Services program, is currently serving as a Black Hawk crew member in the Houston area.
The deployment of aircraft and crew from Bellingham is part of CBP’s broader effort to save lives and assist with evacuations in the areas ravaged by the storm. As in previous natural disasters, CBP continues to provide numerous highly trained personnel from throughout the nation (many of whom are certified EMTs) including more than 60 from AMO, more than 260 U.S. Border Patrol agents, and nearly 200 Customs and Border Protection officers from the Office of Field Operations. Additionally, CBP has deployed more than 50 boats and approximately 25 aircraft to include both helicopters and fixed wing — and more are arriving daily. The aforementioned assets and personnel are working together with local, state, and other federal agencies to save lives and assist with evacuations.
An additional contingent of nearly 100 CBP employees have deployed (and more are on the way) as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Surge Capacity Force — a volunteer force of federal employees who augment the FEMA’s responses to hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and other natural and man-made disasters.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.