The Louisiana National Guard is making progress in their mission to help the state recover from Hurricane Ida.
A total of 4,900 LANG Guardsmen were activated in preparation for Ida's landfall. 195 high-water vehicles, 73 rescue boats and 34 helicopters were staged to support local and state agencies in search and rescue missions, commodities distribution and route clearance.
The LANG’s 225th Engineer Brigade supported local and state officials following Ida in efforts including: flood diversion, vehicle and boat search and rescue, logistics, waterway hazard recovery, route clearance and debris cleanup.
“When a storm has passed, we need to get on the ground immediately to assess and clear routes for emergency access and for power companies to start working,” said Col. Greg St. Romain, a resident of St. Francisville, La., and commander of the 225th. “We’re doing everything from route clearance to debris clean up.”
LANG says Ida created many challenging circumstances for the engineers in the form of extensively damaged electrical equipment, flooding, downed trees and power lines and a bridge that was rendered unusable by storm surge.
"Working in the 225th during Hurricane Ida recovery has been quite the experience, especially after coming off of a deployment," said Spc. Javacia Blunt, a resident of Winnsboro, La. "It was an awesome experience to be able to work with the local officials to assist them on the road to recovery. Protecting what matters is what matters to me most."
So far, LANG says that the engineer brigade has cleared nearly 3,000 miles of road from mud, trees and debris and over 50,280 cubic yards of debris from 170 municipal buildings. 168 drainage canals in Lafourche and Tangipahoa parishes have also been cleared.
“Getting to see the Soldiers do their jobs and for it to be impactful has gone from something that we’re doing to train to something we’re doing with an actual purpose in mind,” said 1st Lt. Kyle Shmidt, a resident of Baton Rouge, La. and commander of the 2225th Multi-Role Bridge Company (MRBC), a unique unit under the 225th. “To see that difference in motivation and to see that end goal get accomplished is really something quite impressive.”
The MRBC, based in Marrero and Slidell, is trained to deploy the Improved Ribbon Bridge (IRB), a portable, floating bridge used for military convoys to cross waterways. According to LANG, the bridge company is currently using the IRB to temporarily replace the only bridge that connects to the Barataria community in Jean Lafitte.
“With the main bridge out in Lafitte, we have an isolated community of 400 people with no access to emergency services,” said Shmidt. “It was the beginning of a bad situation and it became critical to be able to get emergency services over to the other side.”
Before the temporary bridge was complete, the MRBC used sections of the IRB to ferry emergency response vehicles across the waterway.
LANG says that over the last three weeks, as many as 1200 vehicles have used the completed bridge in a single day.
“It’s hugely impactful. We’ve talked to some who have been so thankful because they didn’t know how they were going to get to their homes. It’s been told to me that, ‘It’s a God send that we’re here’ and that’s how we look at it,” said 1st Sgt. Johnny Hagan, senior enlisted advisor in the 2225th, a resident of Pineville, La.. “All the sweat, hot days, long days, it’s all worth it knowing that this community can get back to their homes and continue trying to rebuild their lives.”
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