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Guard troops help in Gulf Coast flooding

by Master Sgt. Bob Haskell

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 30, 2002) -- About 1,000 members of the National Guard were pressed into flood-relief duty in Louisiana and Mississippi this week and another 50 took up stations in Alabama because of Tropical Storm Isidore, Guard officials reported.

Mississippi Guard soldiers helped evacuate more than 600 residents from flooded coastal areas, said Lt. Col. Tim Powell.

More than 500 Guard troops were called up in Louisiana where Isidore hit hardest with nearly hurricane-force winds and torrential rains that flooded New Orleans which sits below sea level in a bowl surrounded by levies.

They helped staff the more than 20 emergency relief shelters along the state's coast. They transported people and equipment through floodwaters in big Army trucks. They served on security details and performed other duties at hospitals, Bush explained.

"The sun is out, but there's still a lot of water in New Orleans. The levies that were built to keep water out are holding the floodwater in," Bush explained on Friday, Sept. 27. "There's still a lot of work to do."

Mississippi called up more than 400 citizen-soldiers and dispatched 250 of them to coastal communities to perform missions assigned by the state's emergency management agency, Powell explained.

That, he added, included helping to evacuate over 600 residents from flooded communities.

Fifty Alabama Guard troops reported to help emergency management agencies in Baldwin and Mobile counties, but they saw limited duty "because the storm had died down before it got here," said Lt. Col. Bob Horton.

Still, they were ready to help if they were needed, he pointed out.

"That dual mission is what we all do," Powell commented. "We're always ready to be mobilized for the federal mission and to defend our homeland. But the state mission is always there, sometimes within 24 hours."

"This is just one of our flip-flops," observed Louisiana Army Guard Maj. Ed Bush. "We go from our state mission to our federal mission to homeland defense to, whoops, it's a hurricane. This is what is so unique about the National Guard."

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