Military Reorganization Continues After Hurricane Katrina
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2006 Organizational changes in the military continue in the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina response, the Army general who was second in command of the military's Katrina task force told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee here yesterday.
"Under our new organization, you will have defense coordinating officers and their staffs located within the 10 (Federal Emergency Management Agency) regions," said Army Brig. Gen. Mark Graham, deputy commanding general of the 5th U.S. Army.
He said having these officers permanently in place in each of FEMA's regions would allow for better preparation for future events. "We'll have firsthand knowledge of all the local residents at the time," he said.
Graham served as the deputy commander of Joint Task Force Katrina when 5th Army, based at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, was called upon to support hurricane relief efforts.
On Oct. 1, 5th U.S. Army officially became 5th Army/Army North. ARNORTH thus became the Army's component of U.S. Northern Command, which handles homeland defense. By this October, 5th Army/ARNORTH is scheduled to be fully operational in the homeland defense mission as well as reacting to man-made and natural disasters within the country, according to the command's Web site.
It will train to work with FEMA and other governmental agencies to lessen the loss of life and property damage these disasters cause.
Graham gave the committee details of 5th Army's evacuation operations for Task Force Katrina.
"Our plans considered the use of multiple modes of transportation - ground, air, rail and water," he said. "However, execution of our plan was based on available resources." Commercial and school buses were the main forms of transportation, Graham said.
A team of 5th Army soldiers and civilians evacuated 15,000 displaced people on the first day of operations, Sept. 1, he said. At the end of the second day, a total of 47,000 people had been evacuated from the New Orleans Superdome, the New Orleans Convention Center and other gathering points.
Graham said that by Sept. 3, his unit had completed evacuation efforts at the Superdome and had shifted efforts to the convention center." Graham said. "Within seven hours, the convention center evacuation was complete," he said.
Fewer than 1,500 people were evacuated the following day, Graham said, and the main evacuation of the city and the greater New Orleans area was declared complete. More than 65,000 people had been moved out of the hurricane-devastated area.
"Although Hurricane Katrina was a tragedy, I'm extremely proud of the professionalism and selfless service of each military and civilian member of our 5th Army/Army North team," he said. "We were simply Americans helping Americans."