Governor Susana Martinez announced today that she has signed an agreement with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel that will allow specially trained Dual-Status Commanders in the New Mexico National Guard to hold dual command roles of both National Guard personnel and federal active duty military units during a response to a disaster. The federal assets would be called upon when disasters, like wildfires or wide-spread contagious disease, stretch New Mexico resources to their limits.
"This agreement has the potential to save lives," said Governor Martinez. "Specially-trained senior officers of the New Mexico National Guard will now have the ability to simultaneously dispatch and command military units of various state and federal units on the scene of a disaster. This would only be used in cases of extreme disasters that stretch beyond our in-state resources, but will help improve our emergency response and better protect New Mexicans at a time when they need it most."
In their agreement, Governor Martinez and Secretary Hagel point out that response to a disaster must be unified, coordinated and effective.
"Someone who has just lost their house or a loved one during a tragedy doesn't care where the help comes from, just that it comes," said Governor Martinez.
New Mexico has four specially trained officers who would serve as Dual-Status Commanders in a coordinated state and federal emergency response effort. On the scene of an emergency, Dual Status Commanders will report through military command channels to both Governor Martinez and Secretary Hagel or their designated representatives. This ensures that requirements to defend our homeland, protect lives, and respond to those in need are coordinated and communicated at all levels of State and Federal Government.
New Mexico would call on Department of Defense (DOD) resources when an event, or several simultaneous events, are known to exceed or are about to exceed our capabilities and resources. Examples are simultaneous large fires, extensive multiple county flooding, multiple tornado events, wide-spread contagious disease, large scale water shortage, or a terrorist attack. Specific resources our state might request could include: aviation support, specialized medical support, or significant transportation or communications support.
Airborne fire suppression in the event of a wildfire would most likely come from either a nearby National Guard unit (AZ, CA, NV, UT, CO, TX) or perhaps Air Force, Air Reserve or Air National Guard C-130's with specialized firefighting equipment.
The National Guard in New Mexico was first organized in 1598. That makes them the oldest serving military organization in the United States. Guard troops have responded to the call to assist their fellow New Mexicans for centuries. Most recently, approximately 500 soldiers and airmen of the National Guard have responded to those in need during freezes, fires, and floods.
Governor Martinez can use the Dual Status Commander agreement as well as the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) and other tools to ensure New Mexico responds effetively to any large-scale emergencies.