Missionaries and Military

As the new world project that would eventually become the United States of America continued to develop roots, much of the development of La Florida is attributed to the Spanish military and the missionaries.  Let’s take a look at the St. Francis Barracks in St. Augustine, Florida as an example.

In 1588, Franciscan missionaries settled in northeast Florida around St. Augustine.  For 175 years, the Convento de San Francisco served as headquarters for those who labored on behalf of the Spanish king to bring the Catholic faith to Native Americans who inhabited “la Florida.” 

Following Governor Moore’s siege of St. Augustine in 1702, the destroyed buildings of the mission were reconstructed using coquina taken from the king’s quarry on Anastasia Island. 

Coquina wall at St. Francis Barracks, St. Augustine
Artifacts found at the Franciscan friary location. Some of the original coquina walls still remain today as part of the museum in the St. Francis Barracks.

In 1763, the British took possession of Florida and designated St. Augustine as capital of the colony of East Florida.  A decision was made by military authorities to occupy the former Franciscan mission and convert the chapel originally constructed in the 1730s and 1740s into a barracks.  These barracks were supportive of operations at the Castillo de San Marcos (old fort) almost a mile to the north.    

The friary where the missionaries lived was also renovated, with fireplaces added to the enlarged living quarters. When the Spanish returned to St. Augustine in 1783, the Franciscans initially occupied the site but were soon replaced by soldiers of the Spanish garrison. 

In 1821, Florida was ceded to the United States and the U.S. Army took possession of the military post.  It remained a federal facility until 1907 when the Florida National Guard, and Florida Department of Military Affairs, moved its headquarters from Tallahassee to St. Francis Barracks.  (See https://dma.myflorida.com/st-francis-barracks-frontier-monastery-to-state-arsenal/)

Troops stand guard at the St. Francis Barracks military post, circa 1890.

Who could imagine that the United States military would eventually form with the efforts of the Spanish and British to protect the homeland it was discovering. 

Modern-day St. Francis Barracks

There remains ongoing debate between Florida and Massachusetts concerning when the “First Muster” of troops to protect the homeland began – which was before the federal, U.S. military was formed. 

Painting depicting the First Muster near St. Augustine in 1565. https://www.floridashistoriccoast.com/events/first-muster

Florida claims the first assembly of a military unit began in 1565 when Pedro Menendez formed a band of Spanish troops, along with area Native Americans, to fight against the French who had assembled around Jacksonville.  (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_assault_on_French_Florida; http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMQC6D_First_Spanish_Muster_Site_in_Florida)

Massachusetts claims the first official muster of troops began on December 13, 1636 as the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony ordered that the colony’s militia be organized into three regiments: the North, South and East Regiments.  The regiments were needed for a growing threat from the Pequot Indians.  The military prepared with weekly drills and guard details.  In 1637, the East Regiment officially mustered for the first time on the Salem Common to mobilize in its defense.  This day is identified as the birth of the modern-day National Guard.  https://www.salem.com/veterans-services/pages/first-muster

I guess it depends on your each person’s perspective concerning who had the “First Muster.”  Regardless, our freedoms are won or lost by those who train, prepare, equip and respond to the needs of the citizenry, whether it is from local citizens, local law enforcement, state military and law enforcement or federal military and law enforcement.

I also reflect on the sacrifices of our Native Americans.  They lost so much as the new world was developed over the years.  The struggles for them to maintain their own freedom were met with much despair and loss as myriads began flowing into the territories.  We owe much to our Native Americans.  

Flags of the United States and Florida wave in sync at the St. Francis Barracks in St. Augustine.

May is military appreciation month and we in the United States are appreciative of those who rise to the occasion to obtain, keep and maintain that which we hold so dear.  

We who serve, and served, consider it a great honor to protect those who long to be free with certain unalienable rights – among them being life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  May we never fail nor falter.  We salute those who continue holding up the torch of freedom with their very lives on the line!

Blessings along the Way!

Ron

#MilitaryAppreciationMonth

#MilitaryAppreciation

Know before you go

 

FLNG and law enforcement confer at checkpoint after Hurricane Michael - courtesy FLNG
Florida National Guard troops coordinate with law enforcement to assist them in road closures, safety and security.  (photo courtesy: Florida National Guard)

Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle with a 155 miles-per-hour fury and extensive storm surge.  It continued into Georgia as a hurricane wreaking significant damage and continues to impact much of the southeastern U.S.A.

Travelers through the southeastern U.S. need to keep aware of travel conditions as they will change regularly even after Hurricane Michael exits.

Thousands of emergency response team members are already working life-saving missions first, along with safety and security.  Thousands more from various areas are currently traveling to the impacted areas.

FLNG CERFP team briefs for Hurricane Michael mission - courtesy FLNG
Florida National Guard Soldiers discuss plans prior to conducting assigned tasks.  (photo courtesy:  Florida National Guard)

There are more than 3,000 Florida National Guard troops on active status already working missions in support of key agencies.

Florida’s Division of Emergency Management is overseeing and coordinating response efforts as directed by Florida’s Governor Rick Scott.   The U.S. Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been planning and positioning support to assist respective state governments and are already performing duties.

It is not feasible to identify all of those responding, as practically every local, state and federal U.S. agency is working on behalf of the citizens and guests.

Some of the first ones responding to help save lives involves the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).  They normally respond with a variety of specialized equipment, including shallow draft boats, ATVs, airboats and four-wheel-drive vehicles.  They all work in conjunction with law enforcement and fire/rescue agencies.

If you are considering traveling through the southeastern U.S., please travel only if necessary – at least until the major response and recovery efforts allow you to safely do so.

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) highly suggests using one of their preferred tools to monitor roadway conditions.  Florida 511.  Also, please be aware that many of the roadways throughout the path of the storm are closed due to damage or being under water. It is best not to drive through water.  “Turn around, don’t drown.”

FDOT 511 header for hurricane

Know before you go. 

Information on roadway conditions and closures is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on Florida 511. Drivers may dial 511 from their mobile phones to receive updates. (Please stop safety while using the device or let a passenger use it.) 511 is a free resource, however, cell phone minutes and text message charges may apply. Updates are also available on the web at www.FL511.com.

Florida’s emergency management website, https://www.floridadisaster.org/info, provides excellent information to assist residents and guests.

Georgia Tips

Georgia’s Department of Transportation Special Response Teams will begin clearing impacted roadways once the worst of the storm passes. In the event of major flooding, crews will wait until waters recede to begin clean up. Priority routes will be cleared first to ensure the public maintains access to hospitals, trauma centers and other public facilities.

  • Call 511 to report flash flooding, downed trees or other obstructions on roadways or bridges impeding travel
  • Take shelter as the system passes through the state
  • Do not to drive around barricades that are in place for motorist’s safety or through standing water
  • Residents should never clear tree limbs, downed trees or debris from roadways, as live power lines could be tangled in debris and cause injury or death; instead, wait for Georgia DOT and Georgia Power crews
  • Motorists who must drive should always treat flashing red and non-operational signals as a four-way stop

For real-time road conditions, call 511 or visit Georgia511. For weather information, visit the National Weather Service in Tallahassee, Florida, or the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, Georgia. http://www.dot.ga.gov/AboutGeorgia/Pages/GDOTAnnouncementDetails.aspx?postID=852

Check other states (typically their 511) if you plan to travel to get the latest on travel information.  It may save time, money and your life.

Thank you for partnering with me on these latest posts.  I felt compelled to provide as much safety information as possible during crisis situations.  I’ll resume my normal travel posts soon.  Thank you!

Blessings!

Ron

Go or Stay?

hurricane Ivan slams pier, Navarre Beach
Waves hit Navarre Pier hard during Hurricane Ivan’s approach – Navarre Beach, Florida.  Hurricane Ivan was the strongest hurricane of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. It made landfall on the U.S. mainland in Gulf Shores, Alabama on September 16th, as a Category 3.  (Photo credit: Florida archives by Chris Duval)

Go or stay, when in harms way?  To me, that’s a no-brainer.  If my life and family is at risk for loss of life, do you think I would stay in a threat environment without making a change?  For sure – NO.

However, many people choose to remain in the main threat area during catastrophic weather – such as Hurricane Michael churning in the Gulf of Mexico toward the Florida Panhandle. (Update: Now that Michael has made landfall the decision was made and people have to live with that decision; however, those still in the path of Michael into Georgia and northward can still make an informed decision.)

I’m watching Michael and it brings back memories of Ivan.

I recall working in Florida’s State Emergency Management Center in 2004 when Hurricane Ivan attacked the Florida Panhandle area that borders Alabama.

 

Hurricane Ivan image
National Weather Service image of Hurricane Ivan.

The Category 3 storm struck with a fury, pushing the ocean on shore and blowing structures apart.

Hurricane Ivan damage, Navarre Beach
Just imagine someone staying in these structures and enduring the deafening sounds of wind and debris.  (Photo courtesy: Florida archives by Chris Duval)

The general public probably doesn’t understand the concept of all the work going on behind-the-scenes in so many emergency planning teams and centers when a disaster strikes.  I know!  I’ve been there and observed firsthand.  It is AMAZING all the dedication and countless hours performed by government employees and volunteers.

Preparations for Hurricane Michael remain similar to those crises of years past as thousands prepare, respond and recover.

People can help.  Local emergency management teams know the areas best and they have studied their areas in detail.  If they say to evaluate or take certain precautions, please do so.  Once the main threat of a hurricane is underway, emergency response teams can’t respond.

I recall a phone call I received during Hurricane Ivan.

A dad called from California stating he was talking on the phone with his daughter who was in a condominium on the beach near Pensacola, Florida.  She was in her room a few stories above ground level.

The dad said his daughter mentioned the winds were picking up and she could see the ocean pouring in at the bottom floor.  He pleaded for her to take cover and protect herself.

Then … all of a sudden… he heard glass breaking and whirling wind.  He had no sound nor response from his daughter.  He provided the address to me and asked for an emergency responder to check on her.  I advised they will not be able to check until conditions subside.  He seemed desperate.

I told the dad I would pass his information to our law enforcement emergency support team and they may be able to relay information to the search-and-rescue teams when they begin their mission as soon as conditions permit.

– Ron Tittle

So…if you have loved ones around the potential impact areas, please encourage them to listen to local authorities and heed their advice.

Also, continue to monitor local and national news.The Weather Channel is excellent at  keeping the public updated.  https://weather.com/

FLNG Soldier providing security
Enter a caption

Everyone should also understand how so many agencies are poised and respond immediately when safe to do so.  Currently more than 1,500 Florida National Guard troops are placed in active service by Florida’s governor with thousands on stand-by.

The Guard typically performs planning and staging missions beforehand to ensure their resources are properly placed and ready to move in immediately to the impacted areas.

Hurricane Ivan house destroyed - SFGate - photo by AP, Phil Coale
The owner of this house on Cape San Blas kneels to pray in front of the rubble.  The home was destroyed by the winds and waves of Hurricane Ivan.  (Photo by AP/Phil Coale, posted at https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Ivan-is-worst-U-S-hurricane-since-99-Death-2724367.php

Many military missions will include helping with search-and-rescue, security, aviation support, moving supplies and equipment, and so many other responsibilities as determined by the State Emergency Operations Center.  Usually hundreds or thousands of Guard troops come from other states, along with active duty federal military, Coast Guard and other agencies.

 

Hurricane Ivan surges onto Ft. Walton Beach, 2004
Police car and storm surge during Hurricane Ivan’s landfall – Fort Walton Beach, Florida. (Photo courtesy: Florida archives by Chris Duval)

State agencies conduct similar planning and response.  Fish and Wildlife Commission teams do quite well in search-and-rescue along with various law enforcement agencies and fire/rescue teams.

 

 

 

Hurricane Ivan roadway destruction - Pinterest.com
Photo courtesy: Pinterest.com

The Florida Department of Transportation has emergency operations centers working in conjunction with the states’s emergency management center.  They have professional engineers who have already been studying the potential impact of the storm and anticipate how they will respond quickly to assist in recovery.   Once conditions permit, teams will provide a damage assessment to ensure bridges and roadways are safe for the public to use.  The traveling public must be patient.  It takes time to provide sufficient assessments.  All of the response efforts are coordinated with the State Emergency Management Center to ensure the most effective and safe response to, within and from the impact areas, and so the proper resourcing can be provided.  They also coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

 

Hurricane Ivan and I-10 bridge section collapse
Interstate 10 span disappears from the force of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, taking a truck cab and driver with it.  (Photo courtesy:  AP)

Similar to Hurricane Ivan, I suspect many roads will have some of their structure base washed out or damaged in some way to prevent vehicles from crossing.  The repairs could take some time.

So!  Do you risk it with your life or family?  After all, our protection and safety is the primary responsibility of government.  Yet we have to take responsibility as well.

Be prepared! Be safe! Be patient!

Blessings!

Ron