By Sgt. 1st Class Denis B. Ricou, Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office
There are currently over 5,380 Louisiana Guardsmen protecting lives and property, maintaining communications, and ensuring the continuity of operations and government throughout the state. In addition to that number, there are 2,676 Guardsmen from 11 other states and 374 active-duty service members integrated into the response missions.
One of the first mission sets following any hurricane is to save lives through air, land and water search and rescue (SAR). To date, the LANG has rescued 397 citizens and 65 pets since last Monday.
While on a high-water boat mission to conduct wellness checks on residents in Maurepas, Louisiana, Spc. Gemini Jack and Spc. Jacob Hawkins from the 1020th Engineer Vertical Construction Company, 527th Engineer Battalion, 225th Engineer Brigade rescued an elderly cancer patient, Sept. 1.
“That was the first time I really ever got the chance to help somebody, and it was a really good feeling,” said Hawkins.
The soldiers found the man laid on a couch in a building and he said that he hadn’t eaten in three days and was feeling too weak to move. “We got in there and immediately noticed that he was in bad condition,” said Jack.
They lined the bow of their boat with couch cushions so that the man would have a comfortable place to lay for the ride back to where an ambulance was waiting to take him to receive medical care at a local hospital.
At the same time, aviation assets were conducting air SAR operations with daily flyovers of the affected areas to ensure no citizens were left stranded and, as a constant presence, ready to serve the people should there be a need.
“On Monday, we started in the vicinity of Houma and worked our way south,” said CW3 Ronald Cole, with G Co, 2-238th General Support Aviation Battalion of Pineville, Louisiana. “Our main priority was to look for individuals needing evacuation.”
“We heard a call where they needed a hoist bird activated north of Grand Isle. A guy had a house on stilts, and his stairs and access to the ground were blown away,” said Spc. Christopher Brossette, the crew chief with G Co, 2-238th.
“Basically, I hooked one of our crew members up to the hoist and lowered him onto the porch from above,” said Brossette. “When we put the citizen down on the ground, he was picked up by the mayor of Grand Isle in his truck.”
Search and rescue operations require a very coordinated effort amongst the crew members. The pilots are essential, but so is the crew chief and medic.
To help better assist coordination efforts at the local level, the LANG will have liaison officer teams in 18 parishes today and is prepared to support in other parishes as requested.
The Regional Staging Area in Tangipahoa Parish has had trucks and trailers delivering food and water to direct locations and to 64 points of distribution (POD), which are also manned by service members.
To date, the LANG has distributed the following commodities:
- 2,437,765 meals
- 117,484 tarps
- 2,731,964 liters of water
- 224,000 sandbags
- 377,107 bags of ice
In some communities, the LANG has deployed 17 large, bulk-water container trucks in order to provide clean, potable water in five parishes.
Additionally, the LANG has staged engineer work teams in parishes to assist with assessing potentially compromised infrastructure and post-storm debris removal and route clearance, as needed. So far, 3,974 miles of roadway have been assessed, while 2,397 miles of roadway have been cleared in 20 parishes.
The LANG is proactively working with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) to support generator mission requests and currently has 133 generators at different locations to assist areas affected by power losses.
Another important post-storm operation is to ensure the safety of its citizens by engaging in security operations with 475 Guardsmen in 15 parishes, to include assisting law enforcement with traffic control and shelter security.
Although emergency response operations are ongoing, the LANG stays committed to supporting missions during the COVID-19 pandemic response, including medical support, logistics, engineering and planning support. It is supporting 12 open medical test sites (including 7 general shelters and 3 special needs shelters), one open food bank and one vaccine site.