Face of Defense: Guard Members Rescue Mississippi Residents
By Army Staff Sgt. David Hamann
102nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
GULFPORT, Miss., Aug. 31, 2012 Mississippi National Guard Special Forces soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) responded to Hurricane Isaac by patrolling the flooded areas of Hancock County, Miss., in their zodiac inflatable boats.
Mississippi National Guard soldiers with Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) transport residents of Hancock County, Miss., after flooding caused by Hurricane Isaac, Aug. 30, 2012. The Mississippi National Guard has deployed approximately 1,500 guard troops in response to Isaac. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. David Hamann
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The soldiers’ mission is to search for and rescue anyone trapped by the storm surge and flooding.
The Guard members arrived on the Mississippi coast the day before the hurricane made landfall and began preparations.
“We made contact with the Emergency Operations Centers and established communication with them,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer Patrick A. Cheney, a boat team captain serving with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 20th SFG (Airborne). “We had a sheriff’s deputy assigned to us and we met with him the night before to make plans.”
The deputies provided critical local knowledge of the area and its residents so the boat teams could plan and conduct searches of areas that were expected to be flooded.
Early Aug. 29, as Isaac was pouring heavy rains and winds in the coastal counties, the boat teams ventured into the storm as the waters were rising to begin their mission.
“When we first rolled out we had a pretty good idea of where we needed to go first,” Cheney said.
“The E.O.C. relayed missions to us,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Fred R. Flurry, a 20th SFG (Airborne) medic. “We also found a lot of people with word-of-mouth from residents.”
Sometimes there would be people standing at the edge of a flooded road to let the Guard members know that one of their neighbors needed help, Cheney said.
After finding a resident needing to be evacuated, the teams helped them into their boats along with their luggage and pets. The soldiers then transported them to supporting teams waiting with high mobility vehicles to carry them out of the flood zones.
“There is a lot of support and coordination that is involved before you ever get the boats in,” Cheney said. “Things have been working like they are supposed to. We train for this with readiness exercises with the whole unit and support personnel.”
The teams worked throughout Aug. 29 and Aug. 30, regardless of the wind, rain and high water, and returned to their makeshift base in a Knights of Columbus meeting hall for much-needed rest and to prepare for the next day’s missions.
Despite the difficult conditions and long hours the unit members maintained a good attitude and appreciated being able to help others.
Coming to the Mississippi coast and helping the residents of the area is certainly worth the effort, Cheney said.
“I like it,” Flurry said. “It’s good not to just watch this on the news and not be able to do anything. It’s good to help someone.”