September 28, 2005
By Sgt. Brad Staggs and Spc. Nicki Fellenzer
LAKE CHARLES , La. -- “Who wants to go home?”
An enormous cry of “Hooah!” erupted from the formation at 1st Sgt. Daryl Plude’s question.
After three weeks of being deployed to Louisiana in support of relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the 229th Military Police Company and the 192nd Security Forces Squadron had just been informed they were heading back home to Virginia.
For several days, the Virginia Air and Army National Guardsmen were on standby, as local law enforcement and emergency response workers watched the path of yet another hurricane – Rita – which seemed to be forging a path which could directly affect Lake Charles, Louisiana, where the 229th MP Company and the 192nd Security Forces Squadron had been working, and large parts of Texas. Duffel bags and rucksacks had been packed, equipment was secured, and vehicles were inspected and prepared for the long trip back to Virginia.
But no one seemed to know when, exactly, the Virginia Guardsmen were heading home, until the evening of Sept. 21, when Plude announced the convoy would be leaving for Virginia early the next morning.
And despite the general good feeling about having helped the victims of Hurricane Katrina and having performed a service for the citizens of Louisiana, the Soldiers were glad to be finally heading home to their families and friends.
Pvt. Matthew Kasharian, a military police officer from Colonial Heights, Va., feels the unit did something worthwhile during the mission in Lake Charles. “While we were down here, we managed to get a child away from an abusive mother,” he said. “I’m really happy we were able to do that.” But like most Soldiers and Airmen who have been deployed here for the past several weeks, Kasharian is ready to go home.
The mission of the 229th MP Company and the 192nd Security Forces Squadron was to supplement local law enforcement efforts in the Lake Charles area. With several thousand evacuees having been housed in the region, local police resources were stretched tight. The presence of the military police officers at the Burton Coliseum and the Lake Charles Civic Center took some of the strain off local law enforcement authorities and allowed them to return to their regular duties.
The Soldiers also performed several humanitarian missions, having delivered water, air mattresses and other supplies to outlying towns, where some of the evacuees were housed. Several of the Soldiers and Airmen on duty at the Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles took children to the movies, gave them rides in their Humvees and even drove displaced New Orleans residents to find jobs.
2nd Lt. Ryan Mallory is gratified to see that the victims of Hurricane Katrina appreciated the presence of the Virginia National Guardsmen at Lake Charles and was gratified to see how upbeat many people were despite their situation. “A lot of them lost everything,” he said, “but they were very supportive that we were there helping out.”
The 229th MP Company and the 192nd Security Forces Squadron left Lake Charles on Sept. 21, amid reports that Hurricane Rita was headed in that direction. According to Plude, busses were also standing by to evacuate New Orleans residents still housed at the Burton Coliseum and the Lake Charles Civic Center.
According to latest reports, Lake Charles is currently under a mandatory evacuation order, as is the rest of Calcasieu Parish, even as Hurricane Rita approaches, bringing with it 120 mile per hour winds.
Meanwhile, the Soldiers and Airmen will demobilize at Ft. Pickett, Va. this weekend and will head home afterwards. Members of the 1710th Transportation Company, 3647th Maintenance Company, 222nd Quartermaster Detachment and the 203rd Red Horse Squadron, who were deployed to New Orleans in support of relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, have already begun their return home.