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Conversation in Diner Solidifies Texas Gustav Support

By Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Gonda Moncada
Special to American Forces Press Service

BEAUMONT, Texas, Sept. 2, 2008 – Rescue efforts in a large state like Texas and a large neighboring state to the east take many levels of support and cooperative efforts, and sometimes a simple conversation struck up in a diner.

Army Lt. Gen. Charles G. Rodriguez, adjutant general for Texas Military Forces, visited a 136th Airlift Wing crew and medical personnel here as they were beginning the careful task of medically evacuating patients from Beaumont to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

He met with Port Arthur police officer Tim Dinger at a diner on Aug. 29, and compared the responsibilities of the police with those assigned to the Texas Military Forces and made a connection that may prove valuable in the future.

“We are so much more aware of what needs to be done,” Dinger said. “Now, we have backup generators and contracts to keep important facilities like this running.”

Back at the airport, the medical crew was busy getting people comfortable on the aircraft. “This is something we did three years ago with two hours’ notice,” the airport manager said. “This time it was so much different. I am no less tired, but it is really worth it,” he said with a weary smile.

As the transport aircraft rumbled down the tarmac and lifted off to the west, yet another bus arrived with more patients. In the meantime, fleets of buses were lined up, carrying up to 500 area residents to Tyler, a four-hour trip to the north.

“I really care about this,” Army Sgt. Jessie Conley, assigned to Company A, 536th Forward Support Battalion, said. “If I did not, I would not be here.”

By yesterday, seven missions had been flown from Beaumont to San Antonio and three from New Orleans to Austin, Texas, with a total of nearly 300 patients.

(Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Gonda Moncada serves in the Texas National Guard as state public affairs deputy. Army Col. William D. Meehan, state public affairs officer, contributed to this story.)

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