Guard, NORTHCOM Respond to Hurricane Aftermath
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 30, 2005 Twenty-four hours after Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf Coast, an estimated 7,500 National Guard troops from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi were on duty today, supporting civil authorities, distributing generators, providing medical care, and setting up shelters for displaced residents.
In addition, National Guard units and members in 17 more states were on standby, ready to provide assistance as required in the wake of extensive damage, rising floodwaters, and power and communications outages throughout the region, Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a DoD spokeswoman, said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Northern Command was arranging for military helicopter crews to fly Federal Emergency Management Agency assessment teams over the affected areas to determine the full extent of the damage and how disaster resources should be distributed, NORTHCOM officials said.
The command established Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., as a federal operational staging area to expedite the movement of relief supplies and emergency personnel into the affected areas, officials said. In addition, NORTHCOM liaisons are on the ground throughout the area to coordinate efforts between the command, and other elements of DoD, as well as FEMA.
The Army Corps of Engineers was preparing to support debris removal and laying plans to survey and begin emergency repairs on the levee system around New Orleans that partially gave way during the storm, Gene Pawlik, a Corps of Engineers spokesman, said.
As of 8 a.m. today, almost 3,800 Louisiana Army and Air Guard members were on duty to remove debris, provide security and shelter, distribute water, food and ice, and offer medical and law-enforcement support, National Guard Bureau officials said.
The Louisiana Guard was coordinating with Florida, Georgia and Texas to secure two UH-60 Black Hawk and five CH-47 Chinook helicopters to support their operations, officials said.
In Mississippi, more than 1,900 Guard troops were providing similar support, basing their operations at Camp Shelby.
The Mississippi Guard coordinated with the National Guards in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Arkansas to add four UH-60s and three CH-47s to the relief effort. In addition, the Alabama National Guard is contributing an engineer battalion and military police battalion to Mississippi's hurricane response.
In addition to the 300 military police and 500 engineers it is sending to Mississippi, the Alabama National Guard had another 800-plus troops on duty to support that state's Emergency Management Agency, Army Lt. Col. Bob Horton, an Alabama Guard spokesman, said. These troops are staging support equipment around flood-struck areas, and 450 of them will head to Mobile today to support law enforcement officials and enforce security, he said.
The Arkansas National Guard also mobilized 350 members to assist with hurricane relief efforts in Mississippi. The Arkansas troops include an engineer battalion, transportation company and military police company, officials said. In addition, two UH-60s plan to leave Camp Robinson, Ark., to support search-and-rescue operations.
The deploying troops will also contribute Humvees, dump trucks, 5-ton trucks, tractor-trailers, generators and lights to the effort, officials said.
In Florida, more than 700 Florida Guard members were on active duty, working out of logistical support sites in Miami and Homestead to provide ice and water distribution support.
The Guard was preparing to ship 1,000 cots to Louisiana to support relief operations there, officials said.
Krenke called the interstate cooperation a sign of the success of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. This interstate agreement enables Guard troops from one state to support operations in another state and has significantly boosted the National Guard's response capability, she explained.
Through these agreements, 98,000 Guard troops from 12 states in or near the hurricane-stricken region are available to immediately support emergency operations, she said. Nationwide, an estimated 337,000 Guard troops are available to be deployed to states impacted by the hurricane.