Sunday, August 31, 2008

Guard Aids New Orleans Evacuation, Braces for Storm Mission

American Forces Press Service

Aug. 31, 2008 - With the full force of the
Louisiana National Guard activated, more than 7,000 citizen-soldiers and -airmen are assisting local authorities with evacuation and security efforts in New Orleans and performing dozens of other missions across the state as Hurricane Gustav approaches. As the Guard and the state brace for the powerful storm, each day brings new challenges that all agencies involved must work together to overcome. "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," Army Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau, Louisiana's adjutant general, said.

Guard soldiers began patrolling the streets of
New Orleans yesterday, assisting with security as the area began evacuating citizens. They were scheduled to begin helping the state police with "contraflow" operations today, a process that converts normally inbound roads to handle outbound evacuation traffic.

About 400 National Guard soldiers and airmen are driving buses, transporting citizens to shelters across the state.

In other areas, convoys carrying more than 900 soldiers from the 225th Engineer Brigade arrived in Lake Charles, Napoleonville, Iowa, Breaux Bridge, Lake Charles and Rayne yesterday to assist civil authorities with evacuation and security of citizens moving from southwestern
Louisiana on contraflow routes.

"One of our greatest strengths is that we are citizen-soldiers and live in the communities we serve, Landreneau said. "We are able to transition from our civilian careers to military roles quickly when called upon."

The activation of the 225th Engineer Brigade calls into service soldiers who are responsible for boat search-and-rescue missions, engineer assessment teams that will deploy to support coastal parishes, security teams and contraflow support.

As the Louisiana Guard activation has reached full potential, officials have called on sister states to support additional requirements created by Gustav's landfall, expected tomorrow afternoon. Battalions from Kentucky and Tennessee and 28 aircraft arrived in
Louisiana yesterday, thanks to the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a mutual-support agreement among states.

A Guard military intelligence battalion already serving in hurricane operations has provided a Spanish-speaking soldier to relocate to
New Orleans and assist residents in understanding instructions being given by the governor and other agencies.

In an advisory issued at 1 p.m. EDT today, the National Weather Service said Gustav was 270 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, moving toward the northwest at 17 mph. Though maximum sustained winds had dropped to 115 mph with higher gusts, forecasters said, it could regain Category 4 status tonight or tomorrow. A Category 4 hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 131 to 155 mph.

Governor Calls Louisiana National Guard to Full Operational Status

American Forces Press Service

Aug. 30, 2008 - As 1,500 National Guard members arrived in
New Orleans yesterday to support the city's police department and assist in executing civil support missions, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced the activation of all available remaining Louisiana National Guard forces to assist with emergency operations in preparation for Hurricane Gustav. With the newly activated troops coming on board today, the total of Louisiana Guard members activated reaches 7,000.

Gustav, which grew to a Category 3 hurricane overnight, is bearing down on western Cuba today with sustained winds of more than 120 mph, and is expected to make landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast late Sept. 1 or early Sept. 2.

The Guard troops who arrived in
New Orleans yesterday will safeguard homes and businesses during evacuation and instill confidence in the citizens, state Guard officials said.

The state's adjutant general assured residents of a response to Gustav that's based on lessons learned three years ago, when back-to-back hurricanes struck the region.

Louisiana National Guard is fully prepared for a hurricane disaster and has improved reaction times, communication and equipment resources by learning from hurricanes Katrina and Rita," Army Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau said. "Throughout the year, the Louisiana National Guard, in coordination with other state and local agencies has conducted numerous statewide emergency response exercises testing capabilities, and validating plans to improve overall efficiency and reaction time. These coordinated efforts were and continue to be crucial to our current success."

As state forces in
Louisiana have reached a full operational capability status, neighboring states are preparing assets in the event they are needed as well.

Louisiana National Guard has requested additional aviation assets and personnel through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact -- a mutual-support agreement -- to assist with meeting potential mission requirements, with the Arkansas National Guard responding and moving into place.

Headquarters 1-114th Aviation Battalion of North Little Rock, Ark., is sending 44 personnel to Esler Field in Pineville, La., to fill in for Louisiana's 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion of the 204th Theater Airfield Operations Group, currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Other neighboring states also have National Guard forces ready to deploy if additional support is needed, officials said.

(From a
Louisiana National Guard news release.)