September 5, 2005
By Sgt. Brad Staggs and Spc. Nicki Fellenzer
The Virginia Army National Guard’s 229th Military Police Company along with elements of the Air National Guard’s 192nd Security Forces Squadron and the 203rd RED HORSE Squadron are making their way to the affected areas of Louisiana in order to give support and help provide an element of stability to the region. On August 29th, Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast, leaving a swath of death and destruction rarely seen in our lifetimes. On September 2nd, the Virginia National Guard answered the call for help.
“Our mission is to help provide security,” said Capt. Tanya Seymore, commander of the 229th MP Company. While the efforts already taking place in the affected region are providing some relief, such as supplying food and water to the victims, Seymore says the military police’s job remains the same: bringing a measure of stability and security to an area rife with looting and violence.
For most of the Guardsmen making the journey, the current deployment did not come as a surprise after having seen news reports coming out of New Orleans. However, many received only a few hours’ notice and little time to prepare. Nonetheless, the Soldiers and Airmen are happy they get the chance to help in any way they can.
Sgt. Roy Lane, a military policeman with the 229th, hopes he can lend a hand to the victims in a very real and personal way. “I hope to help at least one set of families by getting them the supplies they need and helping them get where they need to go,” he says.
However, Lane also realizes he may see things that may devastate him emotionally, but he is prepared to do what must be done to effectively do his job. “I don’t plan to allow personal feelings get in the way of what our mission is," he said. "I know I’ll have to deal with it sooner or later, but hopefully I can carry on and put it in the back of my mind. And when I’m by myself, I hope to deal with it then.”
Members of the Virginia Air National Guard also received little notice of the deployment, but the members of the 203rd Red Horse Squadron and the 192nd Security Forces Squadron rose up to the challenge and deployed with the MP company in support of relief efforts.
Lt. Col. Paul Julian is the Commander of the Red Horse Squadron. The unit is providing a team of six utilities personnel, including Julian, to help provide potable water to the hurricane affected regions. The unit will be using a reverse osmosis machine that will clean the water in the area at a rate of 600 gallons an hour.
“The water can come out of any source,” says Julian, “a swamp, a river, even a polluted municipal water system. We can hook up to the system, take that water out, clean it up so you can drink it.”
The Virginia Air National Guard has also provided security forces to help augment the number of law enforcement officers in the affected area of operations. Members of the 192nd Security Forces Squadron are embedded with the 229th MP Company for the duration of this mission. Master Sgt. George J. Becker the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of combat arms says the squadron hopes to provide help in affected areas and assist the federal and state authorities get the victims back to some type of normal life. Becker’s 24-member team has integrated well with the Army element. “We work with the Army all the time, and we integrate fairly easily,” he said.
The Virginia Guardsmen aren’t receiving federal benefits during this deployment. They are receiving state active duty pay, and nothing more, but they’re not doing it for the money. The Soldiers and Airmen are ready to help the victims get back to a sense of normalcy after the devastation caused by the hurricane, and as Becker puts it, “They can’t wait to get to their destination and get boots on the ground.”