By Spc. Rashawn Price and Spc. Tarell Bilbo
241st Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
NEW ORLEANS – The Louisiana National Guard participated in the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness two training exercises to test disaster response capabilities of several state, local and federal agencies at the Bonnet Carre Spillway in St. Charles Parish and Hackberry High School in Cameron Parish. As the 2012 hurricane season approaches, these agencies are evaluating their ability to respond and test their level of preparedness.
The exercise tested the LANG’s response plan to identify possible deficiencies and also to evaluate its ability to respond to multiple missions simultaneously.
“This exercise validates not just our hurricane exercise plan, but also an all-hazards approach, to make sure that it is coordinated well with the state’s emergency response plan,” said Brig. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, adjutant general of the LANG. “We want to make sure we instill confidence in our citizens so they know that when a disaster hits, we are prepared to respond to any emergency in order to protect them and their property.”
The training showcased the LANG’s ability to respond quickly to any and all emergency situations by conducting simulated air, water, and ground search and rescue operations.
“Being complacent is never an option. Our level of preparedness is constantly being tested whether it’s through an actual event or a full scale exercise,” said GOHSEP Director Kevin Davis. “Exercises such as this one keep everyone’s skills sharp. But more importantly, it identifies any gaps or deficiencies agencies may have.”
Other areas of training tested security, commodities distribution and interoperability communications.
“The most important component of any all-hazard event is the ability to communicate,” said Lt. Col. Dallas Jones, the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment. “By having this ability, it gives us the opportunity to leverage our assets by allowing us to send help where it is needed. In addition, our leaders have situational awareness and a common operating picture.”
With this enhanced training, Soldiers say that they are more capable of doing their jobs and working together as a team to serve their communities during disasters.
“It was exciting to get more hands-on training and be able to gain more experience,” said Pfc. Desirae Skipper, a bridge crew member for the 2225th Multi-Role Bridge Company. “The more knowledgeable you are in your military job, the better leader you will become.”
Different tasks were exercised at the two locations to fit the threats that pose a danger to each area.
During the exercise in Hackberry, Guardsmen from multiple units practiced personnel and livestock aerial search and rescue missions and waterborne search and rescue missions from Hackberry Marina.
“It’s not often that we get to work side by side like this,” said Master Sgt. Orise Cormier, senior operations non-commissioned officer with the 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “It helps us do our mission and helps train the younger Soldiers.”
“It’s a great pleasure to watch and observe everyone perform,” said Kirk Burlough, Cameron Parish police juror. “It’s all about us working together to protect our citizens.”
“It gives me a great sense of accomplishment to train alongside different organizations to achieve a similar goal,” said Sgt. Matthew Lewallen, a dock master of the 2225th MRBC. “These events build teamwork and confidence in our ability to complete a mission in a real-world scenario.”
Participating agencies included: Louisiana State Police, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry, Department of Corrections, Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office, Department of Children and Family Services, Department of Health & Hospitals, Department of Transportation & Development and other local and federal emergency management agencies.