Texas Guardsmen Focus on Rescue Missions in Ike’s Wake
By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2008 Search and rescue missions began immediately yesterday in areas of Texas left in Hurricane Ike’s trail and continue to be the main focus of relief efforts today, a Texas National Guard spokesperson told American Forces Press Service today by phone.
“As of this morning, search and rescues are still the main priority,” Air Guard Chief Master Sgt. Gonda Moncado said . “And search and rescues will remain our first priority until every last person that needs to be rescued is rescued.”
Texas air assets consist of 16 of their own helicopters and another 55 from nine other state National Guards. The final reports yesterday stated 397 rescues were made, Moncado said. Galveston Island, Houston and Port Author are the top-priority areas, she added.
Guard members airlifted victims to higher grounds in Texas City and Southeast Texas Regional Airport for transportation to shelters and evacuation hubs in San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Dallas, and other areas. The shelters provide space, food, water and medical attention, Moncado said.
As efforts shifted into the afternoon today, high-water vehicle search operations progressed. More than 1,000 of these vehicles are available to the Texas Guard. Engineers began clearing areas and roads of fallen power lines, trees and other debris to provide accessibility to first responders, she said.
Moncado said ground search and rescues today are a matter of going door-to-door, aiding those who want to be evacuated. Those who don’t are still encouraged to leave because most areas don’t have electricity or potable water.
Since the Guard’s efforts are focused on recovery and rescues, points of distributions for clean water, ice and food may not be available in many areas for days, she said.
“Other activities are happening; roads need to be cleared, and we can’t operate with electrical wires and debris in the roads,” Moncado said. “This is going to be an ongoing operation, and it’s going to go on for days, maybe weeks.”
As relief operations continue in Texas and along the Gulf Coast, Moncado noted the resilience of the Gulf residents and National Guardsmen. Ike is the fourth major storm this hurricane season, and she said she couldn’t be more proud of her fellow citizen-soldiers and -airmen.
“Our forces are well aware that at any given moment we may be called on to help our fellow citizens,” she said. “This is what we sign up for, and we’re honored to do anything we can to help.”