News: West Virginia National Guard plays vital role in the infantry mission.
By Capt. L. Paula Sydenstricker
153rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
BELLE CHASSE, La. -- It's not every day that a National Guard infantry unit asks for assistance from another unit.
But Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment needed help from the West Virginia National Guard.
The Oregon-based unit needed W.Va. National Guard trucks to get closer to houses ravished by Hurricane Katrina.
The mission: Inspect houses to see if any residents were still in them or needed help.
"They were absolutely essential to the mission because we couldn't get to where we needed," said Lt. Col. David Stuckey, the battalion commander of the Oregon unit.
During their mission, infantry Soldiers walked in contaminated water and in some instances couldn't even enter a street because the water was too high.
About 30 trucks and approximately 78 Soldiers and Airmen from W.Va., volunteered to help with the infantrymen's mission.
"Our mission was to assist the infantry troops with trucks and drivers. To help the infantry Soldiers get closer to houses so they wouldn't have to get into the water," said Capt. Brent Schultz from the 1092nd Engineer Company.
The Bidwell, Ohio, native said it was important to get into the communities hard hit by Hurricane Katrina and help the citizens in need. Soldiers and Airmen were involved in ensuring that seven residents were evacuated and one person was rescued during the mission.
"Our trucks were involved in these rescues, we are saving lives," Schultz said with a smile beaming proudly across his face.
The elderly gentleman who was rescued was stuck in his attic for two weeks with very little to eat and rationing out his water. When the flood waters surrounded his house it re-arranged his furniture. When the water receded it left the refrigerator wedged against the attic's door.
"When we started knocking on the door and yelling that we were National Guard, we heard this faint voice yelling from inside," said Sgt. First Class Stan Getz, a member of Delta Company, 1-162nd Infantry.
The Pendleton, Ore., native mentioned that they had to get permission from higher headquarters to break down the man door in order to rescue him.
"We tried not to break it too hard so the gentleman could lock it up before we took him to the convention center to be evaluated," Getz said.
The mission started when a bunch of lieutenant colonels came to see if they needed help with anything. When the infantry mentioned that they couldn't get close to the house, they offered to bring in the trucks to assist them.
"They got us what we needed to accomplish out mission and that was their assistant general's intent all along," said Stuckey.
The W.Va. National Guard also brought military police Soldiers with them. They deterred a man from breaking into the motor pool which houses the trucks.
"West Virginia's mission was security, support the local law enforcement and assisting in evacuations," said 2nd Lt. Bill Fry, the battalion's knowledge information officer.
The Beaverton, Ore., native said they were also using their assets to rebuild the Fredrick Douglass High School which houses the infantry Soldiers during their stay in New Orleans.
"With all the skills that are in one guard unit, a lot of things can be done to improve this school," Fry said.
After the Soldiers clear a house which takes several steps - looking in the windows or through doors and yelling they are National Guard as well as knocking on doors - they spray paint the house with bright orange paint to let others know that this house has been checked.
Their initials were "TFW" (Task Force Wildcats).
"We are all Soldiers and we are all dressed in the green and blue," said Spec. Robert Wolfe a member of the 229th Engineer Company from W.Va.