By Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office
NEW ORLEANS – The Louisiana National Guard continues emergency operations throughout coastal Louisiana following the wake and destruction of Hurricane Ida, Sept. 10, while continuing its COVID-19 response missions.
There are currently over 5,220 Louisiana Guardsmen protecting lives and property, maintaining communications, and ensuring the continuity of operations and government throughout the state. In addition, there are 3,116 Guardsmen from 15 other states and 485 active-duty service members integrated into the response missions.
Currently, the LANG is focused on efforts to clear and ensure accessibility of roadways, distribute commodities, provide temporary electric power and assist local law enforcement efforts.
National Guard engineer teams have assessed over 5,280 miles of roadway and cleared over 2,930 miles of roadway in 20 parishes to date. 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. I can’t be more proud of the soldiers within the Task Force Castle arena and how they’re operating. They continue to accomplish any mission and any task that comes their way.”
The LANG is working in conjunction with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to provide generators to assist areas affected by power losses. There are currently 235 generators on site, 29 installations underway and 93 sites under assessment for installation.
“This is another way the National Guard supports citizens, the healthcare 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 1,040 Louisiana Guardsmen are assisting law enforcement in 17 parishes by providing traffic control and shelter security.
The Regional Staging Area (RSA) located 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 affected citizens.
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 following Ida.
TG Health System was badly damaged by Hurricane Ida which forced the staff and patients to evacuate from the hospital. Because of hurricane damage, the hospital is limited to the number of patients they can treat in the facility.
“[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 encompasses five operational elements that the National Guard provides; command and control, search and extraction, decontamination, medical, and facilities search and recovery team. Since the elements of the CERFP can function in its separate elements, the 159 MDG is able to mobilize the medical element to respond to natural disasters.
The CERFP brings additional capabilities like oxygen, ventilators and automated external defibrillators to support the hospital to provide basic and advanced life support conditions. The 159 MDG personnel are fully trained and ready to support the hospital and its patients.
The LANG rescued a total of 397 citizens and 65 pets through air, land and water search and rescue efforts after the storm passed and are positioned to support aerial casualty evacuation efforts.
Throughout the hurricane response effort, the LANG has continued COVID-19 operations and is supporting 35 open medical test sites, seven open food banks and 22 vaccination sites.