A Soldier from Task Force Cardinal secures a 500 gallon water blivet on a transport truck in order to deliver water to other military units operating in the New Orleans area. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs Office) Click HERE to see more photos from the operation.
NEW ORLEANS, La. -- The calls came late on Friday afternoon and within two hours, nearly two hundred Soldiers and Airmen of the Virginia National Guard were being equipped for relief operations in support of New Orleans, Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina.
Lt. Col. Damon Igou, a Virginia Army National Guard artillery officer, was directed to assemble Joint Task Force Cardinal and deploy with his Soldiers and Airmen to Louisiana where they would join other Solders, Sailors, Airmen and Marines from across the nation, including brigade combat teams from the 1st Cavalry and 82d Airborne Divisions, in an effort to recover from the devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina. Task Force Cardinal left Staunton, Va. on the next day and eventually arrived in Lake Charles, and New Orleans, La. where they are now operating.
The 229th Military Police Company and a detachment from the 192d Security Force are assigned to provide security support to civilian evacuees relocated to Lake Charles, La. near the Texas border. Click HERE to read about the mission of the 229th and 192nd.
Meanwhile, Soldiers of the Virginia Army National Guard's 222d Quartermaster Company, 1710th Transportation Company, and the 3647th Maintenance Company and Airmen from the Virginia Air National Guard's 203d Red Horse Engineer Squadron joined with Soldiers from the 219th Quartermaster Company, Puerto Rican Army National Guard in New Orleans where they are now providing critical water purification, transportation, and distribution.
While the security mission at Lake Charles quickly became a smooth and efficient operation providing comfort and security to two thousand evacuees affected by the storm, the water production and distribution mission in New Orleans rapidly pushed water to units throughout the area. As much as ten thousand gallons of water a day is being produced to sustain the units that are deployed in New Orleans. Sgt. 1st Class James Funkhouser of the 222d Quartermaster Company, the NCO in charge of water operations, ensured that units could either have water delivered through the orders process, or provided to units in amounts up to four thousand gallons on a walk-in basis.
Beyond the mission itself the scenes facing these Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are overwhelming. More than the winds and rain from the hurricane the entire region was devastated when a levee was breached by rising waters and debris. The result was catastrophic for New Orleans. Houses were often flooded up to the second floor windows. Where the houses have been checked for survivors or victims, spray-painted markings indicate when the house had been checked, by which agency it had been checked, and whether any victims had been discovered inside.
Another sight was the water-borne rescue operations being launched from the off-ramps of highways - wheeled vehicle operations were rendered impossible due to the high level of the flood waters. In the famous New Orleans French Quarter, the buildings (often nearly three hundred years old) fared better, as the flood waters had not reached that point; however, debris caused by the winds and rain of the hurricane littered the empty streets.
In spite of the destruction and the challenge of the mission, the Soldiers and Airmen of the Virginia National Guard are continuing to reach out and extend a helping hand to the citizens of Louisiana in an effort to bring normalcy back to their lives.