Hurrciane Irene
Hurricane Irene is on course to affect almost the entire U.S. East Coast -- a major and dangerous storm. NOAA handout showing the visible shortwave infrared image taken by the GOES-13 satellite, with a water vapor filter. The storm started to skirt the South/North Carolina coast Saturday morning. REUTERS/NOAA

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the military is standing by, preparing to offer aid in response to Hurricane Irene, with roughly 101,000 National Guard forces available to governors of East Coast states, if needed.

Nearly 65 million Americans are on the eastern seaboard, bracing for the hurricane, which was recently demoted to Category 1 storm. President Barack Obama called the storm extremely dangerous.

The Pentagon said it had pre-positioned 225 trucks loaded with equipment, food, water and generators at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Eighteen helicopters were deployed to the northeastern United States to provide life-saving report, if necessary, Reuters reported.

As Americans located up and down the East Coast make preparations for Hurricane Irene's landfall ... the men and women of the Defense Department are working closely with FEMA as part of the larger government preparations and response to Hurricane Irene, Panetta, who is in California, said in a statement.

The U.S. military's Northern Command has been directed to assist response efforts led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Fort Bragg, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey and Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts have all been designated as FEMA incident support bases.

Panetta also told U.S. service members abroad that family members at home will be supported in the aftermath of the storm.

You have my word that I will do everything possible to take care of your families who might be in the path of the storm, Panetta said.

Hurricane Irene made landfall Saturday morning around 7: 30 a.m., on the coast of North Carolina.

Forecasters believe the storm will continue to pass through the western edge of North Carolina, then move back into the Atlantic Ocean, before making a second landfall in Long Island on Sunday.

Irene is next expected to impact the Hampton Roads region of southeast Virginia.