NEW ORLEANS — The Louisiana National Guard is conducting emergency operations throughout coastal Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida while continuing COVID-19 response missions.
More than 4,400 members of the Louisiana Guard, augmented by more than 3,000 Guard members from 15 other states and 485 active-duty service members, were in Louisiana protecting lives and property, maintaining communications, and ensuring the continuity of operations and government.
The LANG focused on ensuring accessibility of roadways, distributing commodities, providing temporary electric power and assisting local law enforcement.
National Guard engineer teams have assessed over 5,280 miles of roadway and cleared over 2,930 miles of road in 20 parishes. They have also cleared 13,324 cubic yards of debris from 90 municipal facilities. Much of this effort is led by the LANG's 225th Engineer Brigade.
"When a storm has passed, we immediately need to get on the ground, assess, and clear the routes in order to allow access for emergency responders as well as any power companies to start working," said Col. Greg St. Romain, commander of the 225th. "We're very dynamic, we've become versatile, and we are adaptable to any mission that comes our way."
The LANG has worked with the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to provide generators to areas without electricity. There are 235 generators on-site and 29 installations underway, with 93 sites under assessment for installation.
"This is another way the National Guard supports citizens, the health care system, municipalities and industry in Louisiana," said Lt. Col. Terry Vallarautto, commander of Task Force Generator response operations.
"After the storm passed, we pulled generators to multiple places, sewage plants, the Joint Force Headquarters in Covington, and homeless shelters in New Orleans. We had all of our guys going out to deliver generators, as well as performing repairs that were needed," said Spc. Courtney Braswell, an assistant production controller working out of the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Baton Rouge.
More than 1,000 Louisiana Guardsmen were assisting law enforcement in 17 parishes by providing traffic control and shelter security.
The Regional Staging Area (RSA) in Tangipahoa Parish is deploying trucks and trailers with commodities and is supporting 69 distribution sites in 12 parishes. The RSA has dispatched over 50 vehicles to provide clean, potable water to those sites. Additionally, the LANG has distributed 5,132,333 meals, 227,972 tarps, 6,273,686 liters of water, 936,151 bags of ice and 224,000 sandbags to people.
The Louisiana Air National Guard's 159th Medical Group's Chemical, Biological, Radiological/Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE) — Enhanced Response Force Package has been augmenting the Terrebonne General Health System to provide additional support to the hospital's walk-in clinic.
Hurricane Ida badly damaged TG Health System, forcing the staff and patients to evacuate from the hospital and limiting the number of patients who can be treated.
"[The 159 MDG] has set up a small, stand-up, walk-in clinic, and our troops will be providing medical capabilities that are slightly above that of a walk-in clinic," said Lt Col. Mark Allen, general medical officer from the 159th MDG. "We [were tasked with] this mission in 2011 and we've been working every year to perfect it … we are incredibly proud to have this up today and see it function."
The CERFP brings capabilities like oxygen, ventilators and automated external defibrillators to help the hospital provide basic and advanced life support.
The LANG rescued 397 people and 65 pets through air, land and water search and rescue efforts after the storm passed.
Throughout the hurricane response, the LANG has continued COVID-19 operations, supporting 35 open medical test sites, seven food banks and 22 vaccination sites.