By: Sgt. 1st Class Scott D. Longstreet, Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office
PINEVILLE, La.– As the state of Louisiana continues to deal with unprecedented wildifres, the Louisiana National Guard men and women continue to display their abilities to respond at a moment’s notice. While the LANG has provided aviation and engineer assets to combat the wildfires across the state, some service members have been assigned to missions to provide assistance as needed in these affected areas.
On August 26, 2023, one such mission occurred in Vernon Parish located in Leesville, Louisiana. As Soldiers were prepositioned around the state, ready to respond to any call for help, the 61st Troop Command, based out of Carville, Louisiana, was tasked with an evacuation request.
Specifically, the 61st TC assisted with the evacuation of the Woodlands Healthcare Center that evening. LANG provided eight Soldiers from the 927th Engineer Company, 61st Troop Command, to assist with the loading of 135 residents from the facility onto charter buses to be relocated across the region. The evacuation was a precaution as the wildfires were spreading into the rural parts of the parish; therefore, getting the citizens to a safer location was paramount for this mission.
In addition to the mission of evacuating the healthcare center, service members also assisted with detecting and controlling a pop-up fire.
On August 30, 2023, Chief Warrant Officer 5s Hugh Junca and Dale Poe, along with Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dusty Bernard, were enroute back to the Pineville area after conducting site visits to the affected areas of Cooter’s Bog and DeRidder in Beauregard Parish. While traveling, they noticed a faint column of smoke bellowing up from the Grayson Marler Road area on Highway 121 near the city of Otis, Louisiana.
The three warrant officers decided to investigate the source of the smoke, and after discussions with several already alerted and concerned residents in the area, determined that the smoke was coming from a location behind residential housing within close proximity.
After contacting first responders, the LANG warrant officers searched behind residential housing and found a growing fire that was approximately 100 yards into the woods.
Upon making this discovery, the service members hurried back to the residences and began to assist with an evacuation plan.
The primary focus became getting the affected citizens to a safer area until the fire could be contained. Once the residents were safe, Junca, Poe, and Bernard offered assistance to the firefighters as they arrived on the scene. Both LANG and the local fire authorities helped alert the neighboring residents and control the blaze.
After the passing of some time, the fire was contained by the firefighters. It was at that point that the service members continued on their journey back to the Pinville area.
LANG Soldiers are helping out wherever it is necessary and doing whatever is needed to keep the citizens of Louisiana safe in a never ending effort to “Protect What Matters.”