National Guard unit headed to coast to aid evacuations

Published 5:00 am Saturday, August 30, 2008

The majority of Brookhaven’s Mississippi National Guard postleft the city in detachments Saturday starting around 6 a.m., boundfor the coast to begin evacuation and – depending on the course ofHurricane Gustav – humanitarian relief missions.

Approximately 100 men of Brookhaven’s Company E, 106th BrigadeSupport Battalion have taken up station at the National Guard postin Poplarville to begin going door-to-door and recommendingevacuation to residents in the cities of Kiln and Diamondhead, inHancock and Harrison counties, respectively.

The mission targets residents living in trailers provided by theFederal Emergency Management Agency after Hurricane Katrina in 2005- of which there are approximately 2,700 along the coast – as wellas those living in mobile homes and in low-lying areas.

“Right now, we’re just doing knock operations and suggestingthat residents evacuate in case the hurricane hits,” said Company ECapt. Shain Vice

Along with 100 guardsmen, Vice said Company E were taking mostof its Humvees and heavy trucks, along with two trailer mounted andfour mobile diesel generators. In the event that Hurricane Gustavimpacts the area, the company will begin working closely with FEMA,the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and local lawenforcement for humanitarian aid, he said.

The 100 soldiers from Brookhaven are only a small portion of theapproximately 1,500 Mississippi guardsmen who traveled to stagingareas along the Gulf Coast Saturday in preparation for HurricaneGustav’s potential impact.

Mississippi National Guard Public Affairs Office MediaCoordinator Sandy Atef said the force, which comes from bases allover the state, will conduct evacuation and possibly humanitarianmissions in the Gulf Port area from its headquarters at the 890thEngineer Battalion post in Gulf Port.

The state’s remaining 8,000 guardsmen have all been placed onstandby, she said.

“As we watch the hurricane, we’ll determine the necessity ofmore units and individual guard members going forward,” Atef said.”We’ll be calling them basically as we need them. We’re getting aforce built up as we watch the path of the storm.”

Atef said the guardsmen would weather out the storm in case oflandfall, with the National Guard’s adjutant general deciding howmany stay on the coast or fall back to staging areas fartherinland.

If Hurricane Gustav does make landfall on the Mississippi Coast,Atef said additional guardsmen would be called in.

“We’re going to use every asset we have,” she said.

For Brookhaven’s Company E, the gulf deployment will be itsfirst clash with a hurricane. When Hurricane Katrina struck in2005, the unit was deployed to Iskandariyah, which is 22 milessouth of Baghdad in Iraq.