ARLINGTON, Va. (May 3, 2010) -- National Guard Soldiers and airmen are on the ground in Louisiana, Alabama and Florida supporting civilian authorities tackling the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response.

"We're dealing with a massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster," President Barack Obama said during a Gulf Coast visit yesterday. "The oil that is still leaking from the well could seriously damage the economy and the environment of our Gulf States, and it could extend for a long time. It could jeopardize the livelihoods of thousands of Americans who call this place home."

The Louisiana National Guard will assist local communities in the cleanup and removal of oil and protect critical habitats from contamination, according to a news release.

In Alabama, troops from the 711th Bridge Support Battalion were out yesterday placing barriers around Dauphin Island, according to Gov. Bob Riley's office. The barriers are filled with a chemical compound that solidifies if oil seeps into them. The solidified material can be removed, disposed of safely and replaced as necessary, officials said.

Florida sent Guard members to a unified command center in Alabama and to its own emergency operations center in Tallahassee.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour ordered his state's National Guard to aid local officials with emergency response.

By this morning, more than 1,800 National Guard troops had been placed on Title 32 status to assist in Louisiana. Among other duties, the Guard members are providing command and control and sandbagging support to St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, Guard officials reported.

The Guard is expected to provide security, medical capabilities, engineers, communications support and clean-up, a spokesman for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told reporters. Boats, all-terrain vehicles, dump trucks, security vehicles and communications equipment are among Guard resources deploying to the affected area.

The National Guard is supporting what the president characterized as "an all-hands-on-deck, relentless response to this crisis."

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad W. Allen is serving as the national incident commander for the response.

Jindal requested federal funding April 29 to pay for up to 6,000 National Guard troops to assist. Pentagon approval came late the next day, though Defense Department officials noted that the governor could deploy his Guard at any time.

"Governor Jindal has the authority vested in him to deploy his National Guard forces in the event of an emergency and can do so at a time of his choosing," Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said.

A Defense Department spokesman today confirmed that Alabama, Florida and Mississippi have filed similar requests for a federal mobilization of the Guard.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16