Days before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, NORTHCOM Commander, Adm. Timothy J. Keating approved the use of bases in Meridien, MS, and Barksdale, LA, to pre-position emergency meals and medical equipment. Before landfall, Adm. Keating sent military officers to Mississippi and Louisiana to coordinate with counterparts from FEMA. Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England ordered the movement of ships into the Gulf. These Pentagon initiatives were carried out without any formal request from FEMA or other authorities.
Joint Task Force Katrina set up 01 September 2005 at Camp Shelby, MS, as the Defense Department's focal point to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency's relief efforts along the Gulf Coast. Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, 1st U. S. Army commander, headed the task force to coordinate DoD active-duty support for disaster relief efforts in the hurricane's aftermath, much of it already under way or in the works.
The National Guard personnel flowing into Louisiana were under the control of Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco. The number of National Guardsmen on duty in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida rose to almost 8,300 by 01 Septebmer 2005. About 6,500 National Guard troops were available in Louisiana, about 7,000 in Mississippi, nearly 10,000 in Alabama and about 8,200 in Florida. The 1st US Army, based at Fort Gillem near Atlanta, had 1,600 National Guard troops who were training to go to Iraq. They were available to deploy. National Guard units and members in 17 more states remained on standby, ready to provide assistance as required in the wake of extensive damage, rising floodwaters, and power and communications outages throughout the region. The guardsmen remain under their respective governors' control, which enables them to provide law-enforcement support in the affected regions -- something the Posse Comitatus Act prohibits active-duty forces from doing within the United States. While under state control, the National Guard is not bound by Posse Comitatus.
Some 6,000 National Guard personnel from Louisiana and Mississippi who would otherwise be available to help deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are in Iraq. Mississippi has 3,800 Guard troops in Iraq, and Louisiana has about 3,000.
By 02 September 2005 the Pentagon had sent more than 30,000 National Guard troops to support Katrina relief and public order work in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Part of their work involves rescuing people still stranded on roofs and carrying out the sickest people from public hospitals inside the city.
While establishing Joint Task Force Katrina, NORTHCOM was already providing or coordinating a full range of support involving active-duty forces and assets.
As of early 01 September 2005, four MH-53 Sea Stallion and two HH-60 Seahawk helicopters from USS Bataan were flying medical-evacuation and search-and-rescue missions in Louisiana, and Bataan's hospital was preparing for possible use for medical support. Bataan, based out of Naval Station Ingleside, Texas, was in the waters off the Louisiana coast. High Speed Vessel Swift, also based at Ingleside, sailed to the waters off Louisiana to provide support, as well.
Three helicopters from the Army's III Corps, in Fort Hood, Texas, were in Baton Rouge, LA, and two more in Mississippi to help with searches and rescues and damage assessments. In addition, five Air Force helicopters from the 920th Rescue Wing, from Patrick Air Force Base, FL, and 347th Rescue Wing from Moody Air Force Base, GA were in Mississippi for search-and-rescue missions. These aircraft are capable of nighttime searches and rescues and also transport FEMA assessment teams over the area to gather critical information for state and federal emergency managers. Meanwhile, eight US Transportation Command swift-water rescue teams, each with 14 members, headed from California to Lafayette, LA to rescue stranded civilians from flooded areas.
A wide range of other military members and assets were also bound for the Gulf Coast to provide more support. The Iwo Jima Amphibious Readiness Group sailed from Norfolk, VA, loaded with disaster response equipment and reached the Louisiana coast in five days. The group consisted of USS Iwo Jima, USS Shreveport, USS Tortuga and USNS Arctic.
The hospital ship USNS Comfort left Baltimore to bring medical assistance to the Gulf region and was expected to reach the area in seven days. Plans were made to bring USS Grapple, a Navy rescue and salvage vessel, to the region to support maritime and underwater survey and salvage operations.
NORTHCOM also established federal operational staging areas at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. ; Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss. ; Barksdale Air Force Base, La. ; Alexandria, La. ; and Fort Polk, La. , to expedite the movement of relief supplies and emergency personnel to affected areas. In addition, NORTHCOM liaisons were operating in Clanton, Ala. ; Baton Rouge, La. ; and Jackson, Miss. , to coordinate efforts between the command, other DoD elements and FEMA.
Standing Joint Forces Headquarters North provided an augmentation cell and its command-and-control vehicle to Joint Task Force Katrina, and JTF Civil Support provided a joint planning augmentation cell.
By 06 September 2005 almost 60,000 U.S. servicemembers were aiding in rescue and recovery efforts in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Army Corps of Engineers personnel had closed the breaches in the levees surrounding New Orleans and began pumping out the water that had inundated the city, officials said. Roughly 41,500 National Guard personnel were on duty in the area devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Almost 17,500 active duty personnel are on ships or on the ground in the region.
Joint Task Force Katrina was relocated to the USS Iwo Jima. The amphibious ship was docked in New Orleans, and the shift improved command and control of the rescue and recovery efforts. The military also provided 355 helicopters and 93 airplanes. These aircraft had flown 1,771 sorties by 06 September, including 799 in the previous 24 hours.
Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., and from the 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas, arrived in New Orleans. Marines from Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Camp Lejeune, N.C., were moving into the Mississippi region. Also, 1,573 members of the Special Purpose Marine Ground Task Force had arrived in the U.S. Gulf Coast area and were en route to Naval Air Station New Orleans to support relief operations.
Communications among rescuers was a problem. DoD provided 1,500 mobile radios to Mississippi officials. The department also provided communications support to officials in Louisiana. The Air National Guard supported firefighting efforts in the region. Two specially equipped Air Force C-130 aircraft were at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., and available to fly firefighting missions.
Lieutenant General Joseph Inge, the deputy commander of the US Northern Command, which provided the forces for the military part of the relief effort, said active-duty soldiers will not get involved in any forced evacuations. "We are told there are some 900 policemen in New Orleans," he said. "We would certainly see forcing evacuation as a first priority for them to work. If the authorities in the state of Louisiana chose to use their National Guard, in a state status, that would certainly be permissible and their call. When this turns into a law enforcement issue, which we perceive forced evacuation is, regular troops would not be used."
Active-duty troops can only have authority over civilians in the United States if the state governor asks for such help, or if the president orders it. There has only been one such presidential order since the U.S. civil war in the 1860s, when troops were used to force racial integration at the University of Mississippi.
By 07 September 2005 more than 63,000 U.S. soldiers were participating in the relief effort in New Orleans and along the U.S. Gulf Coast. About 45,000 National Guardsmen and 18,000 active duty troops were involved, working in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal entities. U.S. Army airborne and cavalry units and two Marine expeditionary units are involved. The amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima and the dock landing ship Tortuga were in New Orleans harbor. The latter vessel was used to provide temporary housing for police and other emergency workers. Coast Guard Chief of Staff (VADM Allen) arrived in New Orleans to establish and lead Joint Task Force Katrina -Forward PFO, aboard the USS IWO JIMA (New Orleans).
Secretary Rumsfeld provided a blanket approval for deployment of vessels from the Maritime Administration Ready Reserve Fleet in support of disaster recovery.
Two Ready Reserve Force ships are homeported in New Orleans, and stayed in New Orleans, throughout the crisis. The Cape Kennedy provided an emergency headquarters for the staff of the Port of New Orleans, and port operations were being directed from there.
Seven ships from MARAD's National Defense Reserve Fleet were tapped to serve in the national effort to recover from Hurricane Katrina. Three state maritime academy training ships provided housing and support for port workers and petroleum industry workers, and four Ready Reserve Force ships provided their unique capabilities to underpin the area's economic recovery.
The Ready Reserve Force ship Wright headed to New Orleans from Baltimore. The Wright is a helicopter repair ship, which can provide support for offshore helicopter activity and house more than 325 people. Also needed are the capabilities of the RRF crane ships, which can offload cargo when port facilities are not operable. The crane ship Diamond State will be arriving from Orange, TX. The Equality State has been activated by the Department of Defense, and will be heading to New Orleans from Beaumont, TX. The Cape Flattery, which can carry 85 barges or 1600 containers, and which can also operate in a damaged port, has been standing by in Orange, TX, crewed and ready to depart. The training ships State of Maine, the Empire State, and the Sirius are being provisioned and are expected to be in New Orleans by the end of the week.
As of 09 September DOD had 20 Navy ships on station in the region to provide medical support, humanitarian relief, and transportation.
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