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Engineer Civilian Keeps Cooking Through Katrina Recovery

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 15, 2005 – Continuing on through adversity seems to be the norm for civilian employees of the New Orleans District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Reginald Peoples, who normally cooks for 24 on the hopper dredge Wheeler docked in New Orleans, now feeds 300 people a day who are supporting Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. The 16-year veteran Army Corps of Engineer civilian said the extra workload helps him keep his mind off his flood-damaged home in the city and his family, who evacuated to Houston. Photo by George E. Stringham

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Reginald Peoples is a case in point.

Peoples is the chief cook aboard the U.S. Dredge Wheeler. Normally, he cooks for a crew of 24 while they work to keep the shipping lanes of the Mississippi River open.

But Hurricane Katrina changed that. Peoples found himself cooking for about 300 people working at the corps' emergency operations center here. At the same time, his family evacuated, his house flooded and friends were missing.

He has been working continuously since Aug. 23. "We were doing our regular job when Katrina made its turn," Peoples said.

The ship weathered the storm in Baton Rouge on Aug. 29, and the next day it steamed downriver to its home port. The ship is tied to the levee outside the headquarters of the Corps New Orleans District. Personnel from a number of agencies have used the ship for food, to take showers and to just get a rest. Peoples and now two helpers work from 4:30 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m. each day. "We also got a deckhand to help us with the dishes," he said.

"It's good being busy," the 16-year member of the crew said. "It keeps your mind off all the things that are going on."

And the crew's work is appreciated. "The Wheeler and its crew have been a godsend," said corps spokeswoman Susan Jackson. "And Reggie has given me his recipe for grilling steaks."

Peoples has seen his house. It is still standing, but he has not been inside. His family evacuated to Houston, and 10 people are living in an apartment there. He said he will stay in New Orleans for the time being. "When I retire, I'd like to open a small restaurant," he said.

When he does, he will get an appreciative clientele from the Corps of Engineers.

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Related Sites:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District
Military Support in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina

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