By Staff Sgt. Cindy Au, 159th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office
CAMERON, La. – Airmen from the 159th Fighter Wing, Louisiana Air National Guard were tasked to deploy their Mobile Emergency Operations Center and setup Government Support Teams in Cameron Parish following the aftermath of Hurricane Laura.
Approximately 40 Airmen divided into six GSTs are assigned throughout the state working with local parish governments and the MEOC to restore essential infrastructure and supply the devastated communities with necessary resources like food and water. The main objective is to be a liaison between the local government and National Guard to provide needed assets and to quickly and efficiently meet the needs of residents within the devastated community.
“Cameron Parish was ground zero of Hurricane Laura and has been completely devastated,” said Lt. Col. Samuel K. Joplin, commander of the 122nd Fighter Squadron. “Nearly all of its 7,000 residents have evacuated and a great deal of them are facing a total loss of their home…I’m amazed at my team’s ability to adapt to any situation. They’ve handled a wide range of
tasks and they’ve done it all with an amazing amount of compassion and creativity. It’s been really humbling to watch them work.”
So far, the six-man team working in Cameron Parish has assisted the local government with reconnaissance of the affected areas by assessing damages then formulating potential recovery sites. The local emergency officials need communication capabilities in order to relay asset requests to gather essential items.
The GST is here to assist parish government and emergency management personnel as far as response and recovery efforts inside Cameron Parish, said Senior Master Sgt. Jeremiah K. Jones, armament section chief from the 159th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. The more that the LA ANG can aid the parish government with getting back on its feet and understanding the resources at the federal level, the sooner the parish can continue operations without additional support from the guard.
Working in conjunction with the GST, the four-man MEOC team stands ready to assist the GST to procure and allocate the needed resources for the parish to take care of its communities.
“We are here to support the GST and to provide [communications] and assets to this area because they have lost all [communications] and technology,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Walker, the emergency manager of the 159 FW. “Assets like generators, vehicles…supplies for the local communities, [things needed] to clear roads. Pretty much any request that the parish needs to get back up and running so that they can get emergency crews through.”
The resiliency within the Cameron Parish community is apparent to the GSTs as they assess the needs of the area.
“They’re real humble people, it’s hard to get them down,” Tech. Sgt. Wayne J. Pelingon, an armament system journeyman from the 159th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “Seeing the stuff that they lost and the damage [of the area], we are supposed to be assisting them but they are trying to assist us and make sure that we’re comfortable here.”
The LA ANG maintains its mission readiness and will continue to support local communities affected by Hurricane Laura.