September 10, 2005
By Sgt. Brad Staggs and Spc. Nicki Fellenzer
LAKE CHARLES, La. -- The 229th Military Police Company and the 192nd Security Forces Squadron of the Virginia National Guard left the Commonwealth together on Sept. 3, 2005 to assist in relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. They did not know exactly what their mission would be at the time, but that has now changed.
On Sept. 6, the Soldiers and Airmen of these two military police units were ordered to proceed from New Orleans to Lake Charles. Their mission involves supplementing Lake Charles law enforcement efforts so the overworked local police and sheriff’s deputies can return to their regular duties. They will also provide humanitarian aid, including transport of vital resources such as food, water and medical supplies.
Sgt. Mark Kraus of the Lake Charles Police Department says that the Virginia Guardsmen’s efforts will be to supplement the Lake Charles Police Department and the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office in order to ensure security in the city. “They’re going to relieve our officers who are detectives and narcotics officers and administrators who are providing security at the Lake Charles Civic Center and the Burton Coliseum, so they can get back to their day to day tasks of saving lives and fighting crime,” Kraus told B103’s morning team Amy Green Brown and Justin Kase during a radio interview.
According to Emergency Response Coordinator Bobby Kingham of the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, all the hotels in Lake Charles are full due to the influx of evacuees from New Orleans. The Soldiers and Airmen of the Virginia National Guard have settled down at the McNeese State University campus in Lake Charles, and will spend the next few weeks patrolling evacuation sites in shifts. Their job is to ensure that the evacuees at the Lake Charles Civic Center and the Burton Coliseum are safe and secure in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The volunteers of the American Red Cross are ecstatic to see the National Guard arrive. According to human resources manager April Brimer, “We need all the help we can get. We’re short staffed. A lot of the clients’ concerns are security issues, and I think the National Guard’s presence will make everyone feel a whole lot better about being here.”
The Red Cross has been providing shelter and food for former New Orleans residents who have lost their homes after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the city, leaving a big part of it in ruins.
The 229th MP Company and the 192nd Security Forces Squadron arrived in Lake Charles early in the morning on Sept. 8, and the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness has been working overtime to find the Soldiers and Airmen a place to stay. According to 229th MP Company Commander Capt. Tanya Seymore, the residents of Lake Charles have been extremely generous and kind to the Virginia Guardsmen. “We’ve had such a warm welcome since we’ve gotten here, I’m not sure I’m going to get all my soldiers back home after this,” she quipped to Brown and Kase on B103’s morning show. “Everyone has been very hospitable,” she asserted.
Several Lake Charles residents have stopped to personally thank the Virginia Guardsmen for driving down to Louisiana and helping provide a measure of security in the city, and according to the military policemen who have been working at the Civic Center and Burton Coliseum, the evacuees have so far been calm, kind and grateful for their presence and the efforts of the Red Cross.