Guard supporting Gustav evacuees, patrolling New Orleans
September 2, 2008
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 2, 2008) -- More than 7,000 National Guard troops assisted local authorities with evacuation and security efforts in New Orleans and performed dozens of other missions across Louisiana as Hurricane Gustav approached.
Soldiers from the Louisiana National Guard's Task Force Gator were also at New Orlean's levees Monday as the hurricane roared ashore west of the city. Troops helped city officials keep an eye on water levels and flood gates, as other Guardsmen erected road blocks to keep vehicles out of low-lying, water-filled areas.
"Louisiana citizens and our governor needed the Guard, and we were there immediately, redirecting hundreds of troops to assist New Orleans with their evacuation plan," said Army Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau, Louisiana's adjutant general.
Guard Soldiers began patrolling the streets of New Orleans Saturday, assisting with security as the area began evacuating citizens. They began helping the state police with "contraflow" operations Sunday, a process that converted normally inbound roads to handle outbound evacuation traffic.
About 400 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen drove buses, transporting citizens to shelters across the state. Adjacent states also helped house evacuees.
About 2,300 Hurricane Gustav evacuees are currently being housed and fed at the Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center near Camp Smith, Ark.
Dozens of buses began arriving from the Gulf Coast - largely from New Orleans - Saturday said Arkansas Army National Guard spokesman Capt. Chris Heathscott.
Evacuees in the open-bay barracks of the World War II-era training center numbered more than 2,000 by Sunday, said Heathscott, who added no additional evacuees were expected to arrive, although the MTC can accommodate 4,000 people without affecting training at the National Guard installation and as many as 6,000, if necessary, Heathscott said.
Barracks have been set aside for men, women and families, respectively.
Some 200 Arkansas National Guard Soldiers are supporting the operation at Fort Chaffee. Another 40 are deployed to Louisiana to provide airspace management command and control for all aviation assets coming into the state, Heathscott said. The Arkansas Guard Soldiers are primarily from the Fort Smith-based 142nd Fires Brigade and the 114th Security and Support Battalion of the 77th Aviation Bde. from Camp Robinson, Ark.
Meanwhile in Louisiana, convoys carrying more than 900 Soldiers from the 225th Engineer Brigade arrived in Lake Charles, Napoleonville and Breaux Bridge over the weekend to assist civil authorities with evacuation and security of citizens moving from southwestern Louisiana on contraflow routes.
The activation of the 225th Engineer Brigade also called into service Soldiers who are responsible for boat search-and-rescue missions and engineer assessment teams that will deploy to support coastal parishes.
(ARNEWS correspondent Heike Hasenauer contributed to this report with information from Fort Chaffee, Ark. A news release from the Louisiana National Guard was also instrumental in this report.)