Soldiers, Airmen Help Evacuees at New Orleans Convention Center
By Pfc. Jacqueline M. Hawe, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2005 As soon as a chair is open, it is occupied again by another displaced American rescued by one of the many helping hands here. Many of those hands come from soldiers and airmen working at the New Orleans Convention Center.
A paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division helps evacuees of flooded New Orleans board a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, which will take them to safety. Photo by Pfc. Jacqueline M. Hawe, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The downtown center is the main gathering point for evacuees, said 1st Lt. Derek Parker, a physician assistant for the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. Paratroopers from the battalion are patrolling the center and directing the evacuees to where they need to go, he said.
"With so many different agencies working to help the evacuees, it makes it easier to have one key location for the evacuees to link up with rescuers to get them to safety," Parker explained. Five percent of the evacuees need medical care, he added.
Medical professionals helping support hurricane relief operations come from all over the country, said Parker. There are medical students, nurses, and medics from all branches of the military.
"I am very grateful (for) all the help we have received in this mission, especially to the civilian volunteers," said said Melissa Bowers, a civilian volunteer from Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton, Wash. ""The 82nd has been like a godsend. They have been able to get us whatever we need to complete our mission." The National Guard also has been a huge help, she said.
Once the evacuees are screened for medical issues, they are sent to a white tent where they will wait for transportation to take them to the New Orleans International Airport, said Staff Sgt. Juan Almonte, a combat medic. From the airport the evacuees are sent to safety, said Parker.
"I am extremely pleased with how this effort has come together," said Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, Task Force All-American commander.
(Army Pfc. Jacqueline M. Hawe is assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division public affairs office.)