By Staff Sgt. Stephanie J. CrossSeptember 22, 2008
HAMMOND, La. (Army News Service, Sept. 22, 2008) - National Guard Soldiers teamed up with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry last week to airlift food and water to thousands of cattle isolated by the floodwaters of Hurricane Ike.
Trapped in remote areas south of Vinton, La., in Calcasieu Parish, more than 3,000 cattle were at risk of starvation and kidney failure due to no feed and the high percentage of salt in the surrounding floodwaters.
Two National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters distributed more than 52,000 pounds of hay to the livestock and worked vigorously to provide fresh water, dropping more than 13,500 gallons to the different locations.
"It was pretty sad that the cattle were stranded out there with no food or water, but the rancher's had grid coordinates for us to drop the hay and water made it easier for us to conduct a successful mission quickly," said Spc. Michael Nolan of Metairie, La., who assisted with the life-saving mission.
"Without the help from the National Guard and the donated hay from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture, these cattle could not have survived," said a tearful Kent LeDoux Gray Ranch Manager of Vinton, La. "They are isolated into small areas and need the fresh water and hay desperately."
"Water is even more critical than food at this point, because they have been ingesting a lot of salt water," said Bill Bruce of Gum Cove, La. Bruce is also a local rancher who went out by air-boat to check on his livestock Sunday morning after Hurricane Ike, and had already lost about 100 cattle.
"This is their life, they depend on their cattle," said Sgt. Joshua Davis, a volunteer with 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion home on leave from Iraq. "As Soldiers, it's our duty and an honor to help them."
"The National Guard responded much quicker than we expected," said LeDoux. And that quick response meant life to the cattle that were looking at almost a week now without fresh water.
"This was a good experience for me", Davis added. "Not only was I able to make a difference, I also got a chance to familiarize myself with the Bambi buckets during a real world mission."
With more than 52,000 pounds of hay and 13,500 gallons of water distributed to the cattle so desperately in need, the National Guard will continue to provide as much assistance as resources will allow to help the cattle ranchers affected by Ike.
(Staff Sgt. Stephanie J. Cross serves with the Louisiana State Aviation Command as the unit public affairs representative.)