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Guardsmen to Assume Mission in New Orleans Neighborhood

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 20, 2005 – A National Guard unit soon will be conducting security and recovery missions for residents in Algiers, a New Orleans neighborhood located across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter.

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Paratroopers Army Spc. Shaun M. Cohen, left, and Sgt. Jon C. Hart provide an emergency assistance information flyer to New Orleans resident May Margaret McMahon Sept. 19. Cohen and Hart are both assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division's Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore

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"We're going to put soldiers in grocery stores helping them to stock shelves, whatever we have to do," said Army 1st Lt. Richard J. Chappell, executive officer of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 185th Armor Regiment, of the California National Guard. The 185th is headquartered in Escondido, Calif.

The Golden State guardsmen will continue to assist Algiers residents and help the area's business community get back on its feet, Chappell explained. That mission is now being performed by paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division's Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, which is slated to turn over its duties to the guardsmen today as it prepares to redeploy to Fort Bragg, N.C.

The Guard unit deployed to Louisiana Sept. 1 to perform security missions in flooded areas of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The guardsmen will likely be in Algiers for a week or two, Chappell noted.

Army Sgt. Michael D. Kelly, a 50-year-old infantryman with the 185th Armor Regiment, called his duty tour in the Crescent City "the best mission I've done." New Orleans residents "are our people, and they need our help," the Ventura, Calif., native said.

For the past week, the 82nd's paratroopers have teamed with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and other disaster-relief agencies, and local places of worship to provide Algiers residents with drinking water, ice, food, toiletries and other needed items, said Army Capt. Kenton R. Barber, executive officer of 319th's Battery A.

Before that, Barber's paratroopers and members of the 82nd's 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment performed search-and-rescue and security missions across the river in the downtown area, Barber said.

On Sept. 19, Barber provided Chappell and the other guardsmen with a windshield and walking tour of his battery's area of operations in Algiers. The guardsmen were introduced to several local businesses that reopened after Katrina, including a combined gas station/convenience store, a coin-operated laundry, and a drug store that filled prescriptions dropped off by Algiers residents at an 82nd Airborne Division-operated field medical clinic.

Barber said his unit's stint in New Orleans was a good experience that sharpened everyone's soldiering skills. While in Algiers, Barber's soldiers conducted security patrols, assisted in cooking meals at a local church mission, set up field health clinics, and distributed humanitarian aid and information fliers to residents.

"It exposes the soldiers to different responsibilities and puts them in positions that they're not going to be in otherwise," Barber said.

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Related Sites:
California National Guard
2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment
Military Support in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina

Click photo for screen-resolution imageAlgiers resident Carl Roberson accepts a case of bottled drinking water from Army Spc. Robert J. Byler Sept. 19. Byler is a paratrooper assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division's Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore  
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