By Senior Airman Dane St. Pe, 159th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office
Airmen from the 159th Fighter Wing, headquartered in Belle Chasse, coordinated and established 11 points of distribution in multiple towns such as Kinder, Oberlin and Oakdale. These PODs provided critical supplies to the local populace that have been completely displaced or reside in impacted areas with food, water, ice and other much needed supplies.
“It’s important to help the community in some of the same ways they helped us for Hurricane Katrina,” said Master Sgt. Paul Gegenheimer, a Belle Chasse native with the 159th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “It’s helping a community that would help us in a pinch if we needed it, a chance to give back to them.”
Each POD was manned by approximately 25 Airmen working from dawn until dusk providing supplies. Cars lined up throughout the day in need of food and water while Airmen unloaded multiple semi-trucks full of supplies and loaded them into their vehicles. Some residents waited not just for themselves, but for their neighbors as well.
“These people and their commitment to helping their neighbors has been an awesome sight to see,” Gegenheimer said. “At one point someone came by for a 93-year-old neighbor whose power went out and couldn’t make it out for herself.”
While the primary focus of the 159 FW has been helping the devastated communities, Airmen working each POD are also working with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind as well. At each location, Airmen are communicating with the local residents while wearing facemasks and adhering to social distancing to provide supplies in a timely manner.
“It’s been hot, and it’s been hard work,” said Airman 1st Class Kerrigan Hebert, a New Orleans native with the 159th FW. “But seeing what these people have been through makes what we’re going through seem like nothing. It makes this work feel that much more worthwhile.”
It’s a time for recovery and rebuilding for central and west Louisiana, and the 159 FW continues to stand ready for all communities devastated by Hurricane Laura and will continue to provide a helping hand for their neighbors in their time of need.