Full-Scale Defense Department Hurricane Response Continues
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2005 Military support for the Hurricane Katrina response focused today on continuing to evacuate people stranded along the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast and getting food, water and medical care to the storm's victims.
Thousands of additional National Guard troops poured into the region today, many of them military police helping provide security and restore law and order so the relief operation could continue, National Guard Bureau officials said.
President Bush, speaking at the White House before leaving for the region, acknowledged that results of the national response are "not acceptable," but promised that millions of gallons of water, tons of food and other aid are surging toward the area.
Bush planned to make stops in Mobile, Ala.; Biloxi, Miss.; and New Orleans to thank relief workers for their Herculean efforts and reassure those displaced by the hurricane that more help is on the way.
Meanwhile, efforts were under way today to distribute the 9.3 million individually packaged military rations provided by the Defense Logistics Agency.
Officials are working to assure a "continued flow" of rations and water to staging areas set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Army Col. Robbie Woods, chief of U.S. Northern Command's logistics plans and operations division, said Sept. 1. "The trucks keep rolling out," he said.
Six hundred 25,000-pound sandbags were delivered to the Gulf Coast on Sept. 1, with another 200 expected today as part of the effort to repair broken levees.
More than 400 members of the Army Corps of Engineers were on site, working to repair the levee system in New Orleans and removing floodwaters from the city, Army Lt. Gen. Carl Strock told Pentagon reporters today.
Strock, the Army's chief of engineers, said the Corps also is working on plans to establish temporary housing for thousands of displaced residents and working to restore navigation in the area.
But the primary focus remained on life-saving efforts in the hurricane-struck area. The U.S. Coast Guard reported rescuing more than 3,000 people off rooftops and flooded neighborhoods since the hurricane made landfall. In addition, 113 DoD helicopters, about half from the National Guard and half from active-duty Navy, Army and Air Force units, were continuing to support search and recovery missions today.
U.S. Transportation Command is providing medical airlift support for patients in need of medical care. Among units supporting that effort are two aeromedical evacuation crews from the 932nd Airlift Wing at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Air Force officials said.
USNS Comfort was slated to leave its Baltimore port today to provide critically needed medical capabilities and hospital beds to the region. Initially, some 270 medical personnel, most of them from the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., will operate the ship's medical treatment facility, Military Sealift Command officials said.
The carrier USS Harry S. Truman and dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island also are en route to the region to support operations, as well as the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group. One of the group's ships, USNS Arctic, already is on station providing fuel and supplies for naval support efforts, Navy officials said.
USS Grapple also is on the way, with 31 drivers aboard to assist with maritime and underwater survey operations.
The Air Force is supporting airlift missions in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, delivering goods, water and critical supplies, Air Force officials reported. As of Sept. 1, the Air Force had moved more than 190 tons of relief supplies and support equipment, along with almost 200 passengers and 54 medical patients.
A 105-member "Red Horse" engineer team from Hurlburt Field, Fla., was lending its expertise in disaster recovery of facilities and infrastructure to the response effort.
In addition, Air Force combat controllers and a medical team were working to reopen New Orleans International Airport, a critical air transport hub, Air Force officials said. The 621st Contingency Response Wing from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., was tackling the task of establishing bare-base airfield operations.
In Lafayette, La., the 615th Contingency Response Wing, from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., was working to reopen the regional airfield as a potential staging area for incoming cargo and troops, Air Force officials reported.
A U-2 surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft from Beale Air Force Base, Calif., flew over the region to take high-resolution photos to help FEMA assist with disaster-relief efforts. The media processing facility at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, the only U.S. government facility dedicated to processing and duplicating U-2 imagery, is processing the imagery, Air Force officials said.
Woods said she expects NORTHCOM's supportive role to Hurricane Katrina to continue to grow as requirements increase for temporary housing and medical support for victims. "We think the sustainment mission is just beginning," she said.
Meanwhile, Army and Air National Guard members operating under their state governors' authority continued to make up the biggest percentage of the DoD response to Hurricane Katrina.
The Guard presence in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida jumped to 15,000 troops today, a number National Guard Bureau officials confirmed will double in the days ahead.
These troops are assisting in missions ranging from assisting law-enforcement agencies with traffic control and security, transporting and distributing food, water and ice, conducting searches and rescues, providing generator support, and carrying out other missions to protect life and property, National Guard Bureau officials said.
More than 320,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen from every state, as well as their equipment, are available to support emergency operations if needed, thanks to formal agreements between state governors, officials said.