Joint Task Force Katrina

Relief efforts in the Gulf are off of the news page, but are still going on. I served during the immediate weeks after the storm hit. My infantry battalion provided security for the local Gulfport, MS goverment as they began the long task of reconstruction.

This was a "bread and butter" mission for the National Guard- exactly the type of thing the Guard exists for. The mission consisted of working with a detachment of MPs, and local police and fire-rescue. Civil-Military operations in a disaster area like Gulfport were akin to conducting steady-state operations in a third world country. The lack of water, food, services, and power when we arrived were stark, and living conditions consisted of GP-mediums and showers every couple of days.

The re-building effort was in itself amazing. The small air field in the Trent Lott National Guard Combat Trainig Center was stacked with C-130's landing every hour delievering more supplies and more equipment for the troops there. The sheer ability of the government to put so much in theatre in such a small amount of time is testament to the military's training and operating capability.

After a few weeks in September, the local authorities began to project more power into areas they could not after the disaster, and the necessity for out-of-state troops in the area decreased. Our battalion was re-deployed at the end of the month. The operation itself went like clockwork, but what will always remain in my mind was the gracious manner in which the local civilian population treated us. Seeing someone who just had their house destroyed offer a private at a security checkpoint something to eat did it for me. A family, who didn't have anything, and were just in town to collect their effects from their smashed residence, offering an unknown infantryman a meal, out of the kindness of their heart. This was common, and it made a month spent helping fellow Americans especially worth it.


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