By Sgt. Rashawn Price, 241st Mobile Public Affairs Detachment August 31, 2012
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Aug. 31, 2012) -- Service members with National Guard units in both Louisiana and Mississippi continue to provide aid to civilians and communities that suffered from the effects of Hurricane Isaac, which first hit land earlier this week, Aug. 28.
In Louisiana, Soldiers with the Louisiana Army National Guard are continuing search and rescue operations in St. John the Baptist Parish using high-water military vehicles and other resources, in the wake of devastation wrought by Hurricane Isaac.
Soldiers with the 256th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, or BSTB, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, are have been kept busy since that storm first made landfall.
"My unit has helped rescue hundreds from the parish of St. John the Baptist," said Sgt. 1st Class Samuel Anderson, a communications security custodian for C Company, 256th BSTB.
For many Guard members search and rescue operations began once the brunt of the storm moved beyond their operational areas. The Soldiers of the 256th BSTB then used high-water vehicles to drive through flooded neighborhoods to rescue stranded citizens from dangerous waters.
"We've been working for about 15 hours straight rescuing citizens of this parish and their pets," said Army Sgt. Lee Savoy, a cook and supply sergeant for Detachment 1, 256th BSTB. "The gratitude of the people of this parish has fueled my passion for serving the community. It makes it easy to take trip after trip to save more lives."
Across the Mississippi river, Special Forces Soldiers with the Mississippi Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) first responded to the hurricane, Aug. 29, by patrolling the flooded areas of Hancock County in their Zodiac inflatable boats.
Their mission is to search for and rescue anyone trapped by the storm surge and flooding. The group arrived on the Gulf coast the day before Isaac was to make landfall and began preparations.
"We made contact with the Emergency Operations Centers and established communication with them," said Chief Warrant Officer Patrick A. Chaney, a boat team leader with C Company, 2nd Bn., 20th SFG (Airborne). "We had a sheriff's deputy assigned to us and we met with him the night before to make plans."
The deputies provided critical local knowledge of the area and its residents so the boat teams could plan and conduct searches of areas that were expected to be flooded.
In the early morning of Aug. 29, as Isaac was pouring heavy rains and winds in the coastal counties, the boat teams ventured into the storm as the waters were rising.
"When we first rolled out we had a pretty good idea of where we needed to go first," said Cheney.
The teams were also directed to areas as the day progressed and flooding increased.
"The E.O.C. relayed missions to us," said Sgt. 1st Class Fred R. Flurry, a medic with the unit. "We also found a lot of people with word of mouth from residents."
Sometimes there would be people standing at the edge of a flooded road and would let the teams know that one of their neighbors needed help, Cheney said.
After finding residents in areas needing to be evacuated, the teams helped them into their boats along with their luggage and pets. The Soldiers then transported them to supporting teams waiting with high mobility vehicles to carry them out of the flood zones.
"There is a lot of support and coordination that is involved before you ever get the boats in," said Cheney. "Things have been working like they are supposed to. We train for this with readiness exercises with the whole unit and support personnel."
(Sgt. Rashawn Price, 241st Mobile Public Affairs Detachment and Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann, 102nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment contributed to this story)