DoD Response Began Before Katrina Made Landfall
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 6, 2005 DoD's response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina began even before the storm made landfall, Defense leaders said during a news conference today.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Katrina destroyed "untold dreams," but the military will help the region get back together. National Guardsmen from more than 40 states and active-duty personnel have converged on Louisiana and Mississippi since the catastrophe, just over a week ago.
"The greatest disaster-recovery effort in America's history is well under way," Rumsfeld said. The secretary had just returned from a trip to the area to view the effort. He said he saw "Americans doing what Americans do best, and that's coming together and finding ways to help those in need."
Almost 60,000 servicemembers from all branches and components are working on rescue and relief efforts in the region.
The secretary said the massive effort in the Gulf states does not take away manpower from the war on terror. "We have the forces, the capabilities and the intention to fully prosecute the global war on terror while responding to this unprecedented humanitarian crisis here at home," Rumsfeld said.
"We can and will do both," he added. "It is important to remember that there are more than 300,000 National Guard, soldiers and airmen who are not deployed overseas. And they are available for relief and security efforts in the United States, should they be necessary."
Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said Americans can be proud of the role servicemembers have played. "I think we anticipated -- in most cases, not in all cases, but in most cases -- the support that was required, and we were pushing support before we were formally asked for it," the general said.
Myers said military personnel have been involved in all humanitarian aspects of the operation. With more than 350 helicopters, military personnel have rescued thousands of people stranded by floodwaters in Louisiana and Mississippi. They have also delivered supplies and provided security in regions where local first responders have been overwhelmed.
Myers listed some efforts in which active-duty and reserve personnel are assisting: search and rescue; evacuations; airlift of food, water and clothing; communications; clearing roads of debris; airfield support operations; medical, fuel and water support; providing security; firefighting support; and recovery and reconstruction planning.
Active-duty military personnel can only act in support of a lead federal civilian agency, in this case the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
Rumsfeld said the military will examine the response of the Defense Department and see what lessons can be learned.