National Guard to double presence in Mississippi, Louisiana
ARLINGTON, Va. — The National Guard will double the number of troops in Mississippi and Louisiana by Friday afternoon, adding 10,000 additional personnel from 13 states to the 11,000 Guard members who are already responding, according to Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, commander of the National Guard Bureau.
About 5,000 of the additional Guard will head to Louisiana, and the other half, to Mississippi, Blum told Pentagon reporters Wednesday afternoon.
In an effort to quell looting in cities such as New Orleans, about one-third of the Guard troops — 7,000 out of the 21,000 — will be used to augment local police and law enforcement, Blum said.
These members will “guard critical facilities, maintain law and order, and prevent looting,” Blum said.
Other troops will include medical personnel to help injured and sick civilians, engineers to help clear roads, and Guard troops using water purification machines and 5-ton trucks to generate and distribute fresh water — an especially urgent requirement, Blum said.
“There is no potable water down there,” Blum said. “It’s all contaminated.”
The mobilization, which for now remains under control of state governors, is probably the largest single deployment of National Guard troops in response to a national disaster, Blum said.
All of the Guard troops will come prepared to sustain themselves with water, fuel, food and medical supplies for 10 days, Blum said.
In addition to the Guard members already tapped, units are on standby in every state except Hawaii and the U.S. territory of Guam, “prepared if necessary” to step in and help, Blum said.
“This will truly be an American effort — Americans responding to America’s emergency,” Blum said.
In addition, there are about 7,200 active-duty troops involved in the effort, most of whom are Navy personnel — a number that is also likely to grow, according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Terry Scherling, the Joint Staff’s deputy director of anti-terrorism and homeland defense.
The mobilization in response to Katrina is not straining the Guard, despite its heavy involvement in Iraq, Blum said.
“There’s no need or requirement to change rotation plans,” Blum said, not even those of the Guard’s 1st Brigade, 34th Infantry who are now training for an Iraq deployment at Camp Shelby, some 50 miles north of Biloxi, Miss.
Shelby happens to be the same place where the Defense Department’s U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., chose to set up its Task Force Katrina to oversee the military aspect of the response.
“We can clearly handle this situation, and continue to handle our responsibilities overseas,” Blum said.
Ready to pitch in
National GuardTo include:
Alabama: 1,066 troops (law enforcement; power generation).Colorado: Eight troops (communications).Florida: 753 troops (ice and water distribution; search and rescue).Louisiana: 3,779 troops (law enforcement, evacuation, traffic control, shelter provision, medical care).Mississippi: 1,945 troops (generation, shelter provision, debris removal).Oklahoma: Nine troops (search and rescue).Pennsylvania: Six (communications).Texas: 1,007 troops (law enforcement, communications, engineering support, aviation support, medical support).Active-duty sea assetsThe multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, from Naval Station Ingleside, Texas.HSV2 Swift, from Naval Station Ingleside, Texas, for humanitarian assistance.The hospital ship USNS Comfort, Baltimore, Md.The multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, Norfolk, Va.The amphibious transport dock USS Shreveport, Norfolk, Va.Dock landing ship USS Tortuga, Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Norfolk, Va.USS Grapple, Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va, for maritime and underwater survey and salvage operations.Mobile Dive Salvage Unit Two from Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va.Assault Craft Unit Two from Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va.Beach Masters Unit Two from Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va.USNS Arctic (Atlantic Fleet; no home port listed) Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship. Civilian-crewed ship to provide at-sea logistic support for deployed U.S. Navy ships.Active-duty air assetsTwelve UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters; 2 CH-47 Chinook transport helicopters; 240 troops, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; mission to be determined.Four C-5 transport aircraft from Scott Air Force Base, Ill.Fifteen UH-60 utility helicopters from Fort Hood, Texas, for search and rescue and damage assessment.Three HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., for search and rescue, and transport for Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Rapid Needs Assessment teams.Three HHC-60 Pave Hawk helicopters, 347th Rescue Wing, Moody Air Force Base, Ga., for same.Four MH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters, Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15, Corpus Christi, Texas, for flying off the Bataan.Two MH-60 search and rescue helicopters, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Norfolk, Va.; flying off the Bataan.Source: DOD; Task Force Katrina