NEW ORLEANS – Every military service member understands that sacrifice and selfless service are part of the big picture before taking an oath to defend the U.S. After Hurricane Ida ripped through Louisiana Aug. 29, service members across the country packed their bags and laced up their boots to help Louisiana pick up the pieces the devastating storm left behind.
“I was actually sitting in my patrol car for the Columbia, South Carolina Police Department when I got the call to go to Louisiana. I was kind of expecting it. It was just a matter of when and where,” said 2nd Lt. Austin Riels, a Mississippi National Guardsman assigned to the 113th Military Police Company, 112th Military Police Battalion, headquartered in Brandon, Mississippi.
Riels is one of approximately 3,500 National Guardsmen from Ala., Alaska, Ark., Fla., Ga., Ill., Kan., Ky., Miss., Mo., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Puerto Rico, S.C., Tenn. and Texas who answered Louisiana’s call for assistance in the aftermath of another devastating hurricane strike. Additionally, more than 400 active duty forces helped with the massive response effort.
The National Guard units came together as a result of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. EMAC is an interstate mutual aid agreement that acts as a complement to the national disaster response system to provide timely and cost-effective assistance to impacted areas.
“We are grateful to all of the organizations that partnered with us and brought experienced teams of first responders from around the country to help us on our road to recovery after Hurricane Ida,” said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Disaster responses require meticulous planning, and the friendships between state coordinators go a long way toward forging the ties that bind state partners together.
“We have hosted an annual All Hazards Coordination Workshop in New Orleans for as long as I’ve been in this organization,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Middleton, LANG deputy plans officer. “It’s to build those initial relationships between the planners and key individuals.”
After Hurricane Ida passed through the state, EMAC coordinators worked quickly to plan an effective response.
“We were looking at this emergency as it started shaping up and we started calling our neighbors that made agreements with us,” said Col. Rob Billings, LANG strategy plans and policy officer.
Due to circumstances beyond their control, the LANG simply did not have enough personnel on the ground to respond to such a widespread event. Fortunately, there was already a plan in place to account for those shortfalls.
“One of the biggest factors this year is that our infantry brigade combat team is deployed, so it increased our EMAC forecast substantially,” said Maj. Mark Castillon, a LANG planning officer. “We have some pretty mature relationships with several states, so we already had some plans that were on the shelf, ready to execute.”
Although the road to recovery is a long one for the communities affected by Ida, the EMAC system has proven to be a necessary, beneficial first step in bringing aid and relief to any state affected by a natural disaster.
“We want to make sure that relationship [with other states] is solid because we may need them again in the future. We don’t want to mistreat our neighbors,” noted Billings.
“For us, it’s all about being a good neighbor to others.”