By Sgt. 1st Class Denis B. Ricou, Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office
BATON ROUGE, La. – Louisiana National Guardsmen with the 199th Brigade Support Battalion, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, are providing and maintaining clean, potable water to support volunteers housed at the Sale Street Church, Lake Charles, Louisiana, who are assisting with cleanup in communities following the devastation of Hurricane Laura, Sept. 2.
According to 1st Sgt. Micki Bryant of A Co., 199th BSB, this sustained mission provides the necessary water needed for showers, cleaning, and cooking for the volunteers of Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.
Clay Steelman, program manager for Samaritan’s Purse, says, “Without the support of the Louisiana National Guard we wouldn’t be able to do what we do … chainsaw work, putting tarps on roofs, debris removal and assisting citizens with removing items from damaged homes free of service. There is no potable water in the community and without it that means that we would not have overnight volunteers.” Steelman expects to have 60-70 volunteers by the end of this week.
The water is stored and transported as a 2,000-gallon potable-water tank known as a Hippo.
Spc. Gabriela Morales Hernandez, a water treatment specialist originally from Puerto Rico, has been moving from site to site in Deridder and Lake Charles ensuring that the Hippos are operational and certified to be used for civilians and guardsmen to have sanitized, safe water.
“I am ensuring that the Hippos are mission ready for soldiers to roll them out to each site,” said Morales. “I do rounds at each site to verify that they are chlorinated, have the proper pH balance and that there is no bacteria in them.”
Pvt. Christopher Dixson, a logistical specialist from Alexandria, Louisiana, is assisting in distributing the water. “Helping down here feels great because both my dad and brother live here and both had to evacuate for the storm,” said Dixson. He says that his dad is happy that he is doing positive work in the area.