National Guard Aids Stranded Livestock in Louisiana
By Army Staff Sgt. Stephanie J. Cross
Special to American Forces Press Service
HAMMOND, La., Sep. 22, 2008 National Guard soldiers teamed up with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry to airlift food and water to thousands of cattle isolated by the flood waters of Hurricane Ike.
National Guardsmen guide a local rancher as he loads bundles of hay aboard a CH-47 Chinook helicopter Sept. 17, 2008, to deliver to livestock stranded without food or fresh water since Hurricane Ike struck Louisiana’s southwest coast four days earlier. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Stephanie J. Cross, Louisiana State Aviation Command
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Trapped in remote areas south of Vinton, La., in Calcasieu Parish, more than 3,000 cattle were at risk of starvation and kidney failure due to the lack of feed and the high percentage of salt in the surrounding flood waters.
Two National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters distributed more than 52,000 pounds of hay to the livestock and worked vigorously to provide fresh water, dropping more than 13,500 gallons to the different locations.
“It was pretty sad that the cattle were stranded out there with no food or water, but the ranchers had grid coordinates for us to drop the hay and water, [which] made it easier for us to conduct a successful mission quickly,” said Army Spc. Michael Nolan of Metairie, La., who assisted with the mission.
“Without the help from the National Guard and the donated hay from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture, these cattle could not have survived,” said a tearful Kent LeDoux, manager of Gray Ranch in Vinton, La. “They are isolated into small areas and need the fresh water and hay desperately.” LeDoux said he was impressed by the speed of the National Guard’s response, which he said was “much quicker than we expected.”
Bill Bruce, another local rancher, of Gum Cove, La., went out by air-boat to check on his livestock Sept. 14, the day after Hurricane Ike struck, and already had lost about 100 cattle. He was especially grateful that the Guard delivered fresh water to the livestock. “Water is even more critical than food at this point, because they have been ingesting a lot of salt water,” he said.
“This is their life; they depend on their cattle,” said Army Sgt. Joshua Davis, a volunteer with 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion who is home on leave from Iraq. “As soldiers, it’s our duty and an honor to help them.”
Davis added that in addition to the good feeling he got from helping, he was able to enhance his skills. “This was a good experience for me,” he said. “Not only was I able to make a difference, I also got a chance to familiarize myself with the Bambi buckets during a real-world mission.” A Bambi bucket is a collapsible container that enables helicopters to lift and transport water or fire retardant.
With more than 52,000 pounds of hay and 13,500 gallons of water distributed to the cattle so desperately in need, the National Guard will continue to provide as much assistance as resources will allow to help the cattle ranchers affected by Ike, Louisiana National Guard officials said.
(Army Staff Sgt. Stephanie J. Cross serves with the Louisiana State Aviation Command.)