News: Mississippi National Guard provides post-Hurricane Isaac Relief
Story by Sgt. Scott Tynes
GULFPORT, Miss. – The storm surge and rising flood waters of a lingering Hurricane Isaac are having a telling effect on Mississippians affected by Hurricane Isaac along the Gulf Coast. There are many residents being rescued from high water and hundreds have been present at storm shelters established in Harrison, Hancock and Jackson counties.
More than 1,500 Mississippi National Guard service members are responding this week to assist local and state agencies with the storm. Most of the organization’s support has been through executing presence patrols, search and rescue missions, and commodity distribution operations.
“Our search and rescue teams have been extremely effective,” said Brig. Gen. Robert Thomas, commander, Joint Task Force Magnolia. “Our force has rescued approximately 50 individuals in Hancock County and numerous pets that were stranded in flooded areas. Mississippi National Guard search and rescue efforts have also expanded into Jackson County. The need to help residents there is present as well.”
On Wednesday, Aug. 29, the American Red Cross was in desperate need of help from the Mississippi National Guard in the area of commodity distribution.
“Many of the shelters began running out of food early this morning,” said Air Force National Guard Technical Sgt. Domingo Rodriguez of the 47th Civil Support Team of Jackson. “The American Red Cross called the National Guard for help in transporting food from storage areas out to where they needed most in the shelters.”
In a joint operation with the Army National Guard, Rodriguez moved to the Lyman Senior Citizens Center, where the South Mississippi Chapter of the American Red Cross had relocated after their Gulfport location became threatened by the rising waters of the storm. The site is a central hub for the distribution of food. Guard units stationed along the coast sent convoys through the swirling winds and deluge of rain to the Lyman center to pick up food for delivery to shelters in their area of operation.
“We have more than 2,000 residents in our shelters now and more than 36,000 meals on hand,” said Jay Huffstatler, chapter executive for the South Mississippi Chapter. “The Guard is helping us to get those out to the three coastal counties.”
First Lt. Jessica Lee of Company E, 106th Brigade Support Battalion, said her unit has been staged in Kiln to assist Hancock County.
“We’re working with [the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency],” the Jackson native said. “They tell me what I need to do and I execute the mission. Right now, people need food and that is what we are doing.”
Windy Swetman, Harrison County District 1 supervisor, helped Guardsmen of the 858th Horizontal Engineering Company from Okolona unload cases of food at a shelter established at D’Iberville High School Wednesday evening. He said many of the relief efforts would not be possible without the assistance of the National Guard and he appreciated the soldiers and airmen.
“We know you have families and we appreciate the sacrifices being made,” he said.
While food distribution efforts escalated Wednesday, the Guard continues to provide additional support to local agencies through presence patrols and with search and rescue operations.