Saturday, August 30, 2008

Governor Calls Louisiana National Guard to Full Operational Status

Members of the Louisiana National Guard's 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team stage their vehicles next to the Ernest Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Aug. 29, 2008. The soldiers are activated for security missions in support of hurricane operations throughout the state. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael L. Owens, 241st Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

As 1,500 National Guard members arrived in New Orleans yesterday to support the city's police department and assist in executing civil support missions, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced the activation of all available remaining Louisiana National Guard forces to assist with emergency operations in preparation for Hurricane Gustav.

With the newly activated troops coming on board today, the total of Louisiana Guard members activated reaches 7,000.

Gustav, which grew to a Category 3 hurricane overnight, is bearing down on western Cuba today with sustained winds of more than 120 mph, and is expected to make landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast late Sept. 1 or early Sept. 2.

The Guard troops who arrived in New Orleans yesterday will safeguard homes and businesses during evacuation and instill confidence in the citizens, state Guard officials said.

The state's adjutant general assured residents of a response to Gustav that's based on lessons learned three years ago, when back-to-back hurricanes struck the region.

"The Louisiana National Guard is fully prepared for a hurricane disaster and has improved reaction times, communication and equipment resources by learning from hurricanes Katrina and Rita," Army Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau said. "Throughout the year, the Louisiana National Guard, in coordination with other state and local agencies has conducted numerous statewide emergency response exercises testing capabilities, and validating plans to improve overall efficiency and reaction time. These coordinated efforts were and continue to be crucial to our current success."

As state forces in Louisiana have reached a full operational capability status, neighboring states are preparing assets in the event they are needed as well.

The Louisiana National Guard has requested additional aviation assets and personnel through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact -- a mutual-support agreement -- to assist with meeting potential mission requirements, with the Arkansas National Guard responding and moving into place.

Headquarters 1-114th Aviation Battalion of North Little Rock, Ark., is sending 44 personnel to Esler Field in Pineville, La., to fill in for Louisiana's 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion of the 204th Theater Airfield Operations Group, currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Other neighboring states also have National Guard forces ready to deploy if additional support is needed, officials said.