By Capt. Larissa Lambert, 159th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office
BELLE CHASSE, La. – Approximately 30 members from the 202nd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers (Red Horse) out of Camp Blanding, Florida, were tasked Saturday to assist New Orleans Parks and Parkways in removing debris and downed trees from roadways. Florida is one of 10 states participating in disaster relief efforts in Louisiana through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).
Red Horse is a specialized, highly mobile civil engineering team comprised of Florida Army and Air National Guardsmen that provides rapid response capabilities for multiple worldwide contingencies and operations.
Working alongside the Louisiana Air National Guard’s 159th Civil Engineering Squadron, the team was equipped with chainsaws, skid steers and bobcats to remove trees or limbs from driveways and roads in New Orleans residential areas.
“Red Horse is a heavily mobile, rapid engineering group that is here to help aid in recovery and route clearing,” said Staff Sgt. James Bishop, 202nd RHS heavy equipment operator. “Any time we have downed trees, we want our guys to come is as quick as possible, take care of the folks that are here, make sure they have access in and out of their areas, so they can get the help they need.”
New Orleans Parks and Parkways have been working with small crews but needed the heavy equipment and personnel that Red Horse offered so people can return to their homes.
“I’ve been working with a small crew, that doesn’t have heavy equipment, for the last few days that are filling in the gaps of the larger equipment crews because there is so much to be done,” said Andrew Billon, a Parks and Parkways arborists. “Any help we can get is amazing. I have this huge, awesome crew of National Guard folks that have shown up with vigor and energy, helping out a ton.”
Once notified of an EMAC request for support, Red Horse quickly assembles a team with mission essential tools to be able to respond within a 24-hour window to EMAC members.
Helping the local community with hurricane relief has been a new experience for Spc. Tavia Biles, a combat engineer with the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. According to Biles, New Orleans has been very friendly and welcoming of the Red Horse team. She added that neighboring states can take comfort knowing that Red Horse will answer the call in a time of need.
The LAANG stands ready to assist and support Louisiana communities affected by natural disasters.