Guard Supports Flooding, Security Missions in Texas, Louisiana
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 20, 2006 National Guard troops have been called to duty in Louisiana and Texas in response to an outbreak of violence in New Orleans and flooding in the Houston area.
The call-ups come as the number of National Guard members increases along the nation's southwest border for Operation Jump Start. That mission is expected to ultimately involve 6,000 National Guard members in support of the U.S. Border Police.
About 100 Louisiana National Guard troops have been called to duty, with another 200 to follow to support the New Orleans Police Department in the wake of weekend violence that left six people dead.
Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco announced plans to mobilize the troops yesterday at New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's request. The National Guard last provided law enforcement support in the city following Hurricane Katrina last fall.
Air Force Lt. Col. Pete Schneider, state National Guard spokesman, said the troops will be posted in the less-populated parts of the city - mostly the 9th Ward and Lakeview - to prevent looting. Both areas were devastated during Hurricane Katrina, and many residents haven't been yet able to move back into their homes there.
Stationing the Guard troops in these areas will free up city police officers for duty in the more populated areas, Schneider said.
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry mobilized about 120 Texas National Guard troops after torrential rainfalls flooded low-lying areas in the southeastern part of the state.
So far, the Guard has provided 50 large Texas Army National Guard high-water vehicles with crews, two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters with flight crews and an element of the 6th Army National Guard Civil Support Team, according to Army Col. William Meehan, state National Guard spokesman.
The Guard also is supporting the mission with a satellite communications package system that enables responders to coordinate from wherever they are operating, Meehan said. In addition, two CH-47 Chinook transport helicopters with flight crews are on standby.
"We are closely monitoring the situation and are prepared to provide full support to local officials," Perry said. "We will do whatever it takes to help keep Texans in the affected region safe."
The domestic response missions come as both states are supporting other federal and state missions.
About 4,000 Texas National Guard members are deployed for missions in the Sinai, Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, Meehan said. In addition, the first 300 state Guardsmen are training up for the border security mission - a number Meehan said is expected to grow to 500 by the month's end and to 1,000 by late July. By the end of September, more than 1,500 Texas Guard members are expected to be involved.
Meehan called these multiple missions a testament to the citizen-servicemembers who make up the National Guard. "The National Guard continues to demonstrate its versatility and relevance in today's challenging environment," he said.
Louisiana still has a contingent of 25 to 30 Guard members with specialized skills who are helping local parishes re-establish their government processes following Hurricane Katrina, Schneider said.
Recognizing that the Louisiana Guard's services could be required again this hurricane season, the state is keeping its members as close to home as possible. Fewer than 200 guardsmen from the state are deployed in support of the terror war, and none are currently supporting Operation Jump Start, Schneider said.