By R. Neal

The U.S. military and National Guard units around the South are mobilizing in response to Katrina. Here are some reports:

(Click on the "there's more" link below for the rest of the article...)



Army News Service:
  • More than 5,000 National Guard troops have been activated in four states to assist with recovery operations as 140-mph winds of Hurricane Katrina strike the Gulf Coast.
     
  • The Army Corps of Engineers is anticipating potential requirements to pump water out of New Orleans, much of which is below sea level and protected by a system of dikes, levees and pumps.
     
  • First U.S. Army activated its 24-hour Crisis Action Team Aug. 28 and sent defense coordinating elements to three states. These elements help U.S. Northern Command coordinate DoD support to civil authorities as requested by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
     
  • About 780 National Guard troops were called to state active duty in Florida to help distribute ice and water and to man Logistic Support Sites in Miami and Homestead, Fla. At least six Florida residents were reportedly killed in the storm and about half a million were without electric power.
     
  • Mississippi activated 853 National Guard troops and has staged them at Camp Shelby, Miss., for the recovery operation. The Soldiers are ready to perform debris removal, security and logistical support, officials said.
     
  • Alabama has activated about 160 National Guard troops who are helping sandbag critical coastal areas and have prepositioned generators and trucks for the hurricane recovery operation. The Alabama National Guard activated its Emergency Operations Center in Mobile with support from the 711th Signal Battalion and the 226th Area Support Group, state officials said. They said Army and Air National Guard troops are also monitoring the hurricane and emergency response operations from the Guard's Joint Operations Center in Montgomery.
     
  • "Right now [ed. note: yesterday], First Army is leaning forward and planning for any number of needs the states may have once this hurricane hits," said Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré, commanding general, First U.S. Army. "I have been in contact with each of the state's adjutant generals and assured them that First Army is ready to help."

    "One of the things we learned last year with the series of hurricanes that passed through Florida, was the need for satellite communications," said Col. James Hickey, chief of staff, First U.S. Army. "This storm will likely take out some key communications nodes and cell phones and land lines may not work for some time."

    Based on that assessment, First Army is identifying satellite phones and other military communications assets that do not rely on local infrastructure. Food, water and ice are also key resources and the military is planning to help with quick distribution of those supplies in the aftermath of the storm.

    Other possible requirements include helicopter support for evacuation, emergency supplies and damage assessments; medical personnel, supplies and equipment to include sanitation expertise; transportation units with the capability to ford high water; watercraft assets for coastal areas; and construction, bridging and utility engineer units.
U.S. Navy:
  • The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) and other U.S. Navy assets are making preparations to provide assistance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, if needed. Bataan is currently underway in the Gulf of Mexico and standing by to provide assistance as needed in hurricane-affected areas.

    Based in Norfolk, Bataan is underway for previously scheduled operations, and will remain in the vicinity of impacted areas until otherwise directed. If called upon, Bataan brings unique humanitarian capabilities to the scene. [ed. note: the Bataan has a 600 bed hospital on board.]
     
  • Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron Fifteen (HM-15) embarked three MH-53E helicopters in preparation for possible relief efforts along the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The MH-53E Sea Dragon is capable of carrying 55 passengers and 16 tons of cargo 50 nautical miles.
U.S. Coast Guard:
  • More than 40 Coast Guard aircraft from units along the entire eastern seaboard, along with more than 30 small boats, patrol boats and cutters, are positioning themselves in staging areas around the projected impact area - from Jacksonville, Fla., to Houston - making preparations to conduct immediate post-hurricane search, rescue and humanitarian aid operations, waterway impact assessments and waterway reconstitution operations.

    [ed. note: the U.S. Coast Guard has set up a news and information website with rescue reports and photos.]
From the Shreveport Times:
As Hurricane Katrina surged past New Orleans, Louisiana mobilized its soldiers to help, as did Mississippi, Alabama and other southern states. Despite prominent roles in the War on Terror, the states report more than the 50 percent strength mandated for homeland missions. Louisiana has 65 percent of its troops available for state missions; Mississippi, 60 percent; Alabama, 77 percent; and Florida, 74 percent, Guard officials said.

[..]

The Louisiana National Guard had called almost 3,500 of its members to state active duty as of 7 a.m. Monday to help with missions that ranged from aiding law enforcement agencies with traffic control and security to conducting searches and rescues and providing generator support. Guard members conducted security and screening at the emergency shelter at the New Orleans Superdome, and elsewhere helped state police with evacuations.
Some have expressed concern that the National Guard might be spread too thin because of deployments to Iraq. According to the report from the Shreveport Times above, officials say they have sufficient personnel to aid in the recovery efforts. At any rate, these folks have a tough job ahead of them for the next days and weeks, and Gulf Coast residents will be grateful for their assistance.