By Staff Sgt. Gregory Stevens, Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office
There are currently over 5,000 Louisiana Guardsmen protecting lives and property, maintaining communications, and ensuring the continuity of operations and government throughout the state. In addition, there are over 2,500 Guardsmen from 14 other states and over 400 active-duty service members integrated into the response missions.
“The downtown area in Lake Charles and the Sabine River are prone to flooding,” said 527th Engineer Battalion commander Lt. Col. Chris Spurlock. “Even though we’re stationed here in Calcasieu Parish, we’re ready to support operations in the entire region.”
Presently, Soldiers with the 1020th Engineer Company, 527th Engineer Battalion, 225th Engineer Brigade from Marksville are staging high-water vehicles (HWV) and flat bottom boats at the Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles in preparation for potential search and rescue operations that may be needed in southwest and south-central Louisiana after Nicholas makes landfall.
“Safety is the number one thing, especially when you get in high water,” said Staff Sgt. Blake Brouillette of the 1020th. “If we must evacuate people, we can load them into the back of the trucks. If the water is too high, we’ll launch our boats, rescue and bring them to higher ground so we can get them to a safe place.”
The LANG currently has 80 HWV’s, 23 boats and 15 helicopters pre-positioned in preparation for the adverse conditions that Nicholas may leave in its wake.
In recent years, emergency operations have become a recurring challenge that LANG Soldiers have met time and again.
“We’ve been doing this for a while, so we’ve gotten quite used to it. Once we get those initial assessments, whether it’s flooding, high-water rescue operations, lily pad operations, whatever the need is for the LANG, we’re here to support,” said Spurlock.
Following Hurricane Ida, National Guard engineer teams have assessed 5,304 miles of roadway and cleared 2,940 miles of road in 20 parishes to date. They have also cleared 31,339 cubic yards of debris from 162 municipal facilities.
More than 600 Louisiana Guardsmen are assisting law enforcement in 17 parishes by providing presence patrols, traffic control and shelter security.
The Regional Staging Area (RSA) located in Tangipahoa Parish is deploying trucks and trailers with commodities and is supporting 34 points of distribution. The RSA has dispatched over 50 vehicles to provide clean, potable water to ten parishes. Additionally, the LANG has distributed 5,951,355 meals, 283,170 tarps, 7,357,293 liters of water and 1,164,819 bags of ice.
The LANG rescued a total of 397 citizens and 65 pets through air, land and water search and rescue efforts after Hurricane Ida 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 27 COVID test sites, 17 COVID vaccine sites and seven open food banks.