Once again, it’s the Cavalry to the rescue with equal support from Field Artillery, Armor and Infantry units and a big assist from the Air National Guard. The New Jersey National Guard has deployed hundreds of personnel, vehicles and equipment in response to the unprecedented devastation and destruction left in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to assist victims of the two worst storms to hit the United States in the last century.
Following the announcement by LTG H. Steven Blum, Chief, National Guard Bureau on Aug. 31 authorizing respective state National Guards to provide whatever manpower or equipment support they had to assist in the monumental relief effort, New Jersey Air National Guard crews and their KC-135E Stratotanker aircraft from the 108th Air Refueling Wing were mobilized to deliver desperately needed bottled drinking water to the areas affected by the ravages of Katrina’s 135 mph winds and 20-foot storm surge.
New Jersey citizens, corporations and private organizations donated 3.5 million 16-ounce bottles of water over a five-day period. New Jersey Army National Guard personnel from the 250th Forward Support Battalion headquartered in Sea Girt and other personnel at National Guard armories throughout the state also were called into service to package and provide ground transportation for the donated water.
Thirty-five Security Forces Airmen of the 108th Air Refueling Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, spent two weeks
assisting local law enforcement personnel restore
and maintain order. Twenty-five soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 112th Field Artillery spent three days setting up a Life Support Area for a Law Enforcement Task Force from New Jersey that sent State Police and other emergency services personnel to the devastated region (also as part of the state’s EMAC agreement with Louisiana.)
On Sept. 21, a contingent of 12 New Jersey Army National Guard Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 112th Field Artillery, 50th Main Support Battalion, and Joint Force Headquarters departed from McGuire Air Force Base destined for Belle Chasse Naval Air Station New Orleans to relieve their counterparts in the Louisiana National Guard who have been on duty at the military flight facility since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast more than three weeks prior.
The Garden State Guardsmen, who all volunteered to answer the call to fulfill this latest mission, served as a “movement control cell” directing the hundreds of aircraft and vehicles bringing desperately needed relief supplies to the storm stricken area. The Jersey troops were tasked for this special mission as part of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) that provides authority for Guard units from other than their home state to provide personnel and equipment in the event of an emergency. The troops were stationed at Belle Chasse where they helped coordinate arrivals and departures of the numerous daily flights of military and other relief aircraft that are bringing additional troops, equipment, and supplies to aid in the ongoing national relief and recovery effort.
Lt. Col. Eric Anderson, Joint Force Headquarters-New Jersey, commanded this group of Guardsmen. “As a Guardsman I’m happy to be able to help our fellow Americans in the aftermath of this terrible disaster. As a husband and father, I can only imagine what these families have had to endure these past weeks.”
The current relief effort differs somewhat from previous emergency assistance missions in the Garden State following Hurricanes' Floyd and Andrew and the local flood emergencies in Somerset County a few years back. The areas of the Gulf Coast have been so severely damaged that numerous new challenges have been introduced. The virtual absence of communications, electricity, housing, fuel, food, and potable water required rescue personnel not only to bring relief supplies to assist the victims of the Hurricane, but also to be completely self supporting.
Maj. Gen. Glenn K. Rieth, The Adjutant General of New
Jersey, who along with Acting Governor Richard J. Codey,
Commander-in-Chief of the New Jersey National Guard
accompanied the troops during their flight to New Orleans,
described the Guard’s role in emergencies. “These Guardsmen
all volunteered. Their willingness to put service to state
and nation before service to self has always been the
hallmark of the Citizen-Soldier.”
On Sept. 28, an additional 300 troops from the New Jersey National Guard began their 30-day mission of providing security, bringing supplies, equipment and additional personnel to support Task Force Santa Fe. The Soldiers were drawn from a variety of units to include the 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry; the 2nd Battalion 102nd Armor; the 2nd Battalion, 113th Infantry: a beefed-up Transportation Platoon from the 250th Forward Support Battalion: the 50th Main Support Battalion; the 253rd Transportation Company; members of the 3rd Battalion, 112th Field Artillery; 110th Engineer Detachment; 50th Personnel Services Batallion; Joint Force Headquarters - New Jersey and a command and control element from Joint Training and Training Development Center. Medics, mechanics, drivers, and fuel handlers formed the 53-vehicle convoy, which included HUMMV’s, tractor-trailers, pallet loading systems, HMMT cargo, wreckers, and tankers, and an ambulance for the three-day motor march to Louisiana while the bulk of the infantry troops traveled by commercial bus.
"My intent was to provide a professional military unit to
the city of New Orleans, that was able to assist with
security and stabilization operations," said Col. James
Grant, Commander, Task Force Garden State. "Preparedness, perception and professionalism have been the focus of this command since day one. I can report today that my intent was met and expectations exceeded. I am proud of each and every Soldiers’ performance on this mission."
Katrina support didn't stop there. In addition to the numerous Soldiers and Airmen mentioned earlier, 20 members of the 177th Medical Group deployed to both New Orleans and Gulfport, Miss., for anywhere from two to four weeks to provide aid. On Oct. 14, 43 civil engineers and other support personnel for the 108th ARW and the 177th FW deployed to Gulfport to help maintain and improve a life support area for volunteers.
“The Guard is family," said General Rieth. "Whatever
resources we have...whatever resources we can muster
now will be directed to assisting our extended National
Guard family and other storm victims in the Gulf Coast region.”