Despite deployment of some guardsmen to Iraq and the difficulty of mobilizing part-time soldiers, the National Guard forces of the gulf states have responded quickly and efficiently to the hurricane crisis in Louisiana.
Before the storm hit there were already 6200 National Guardsmen deployed in Louisiana from Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Missiassippi and Florida. Additional troops arrived in the immediate aftermath of the storm, bringing the total deployed to over 11,000. This is in addition to 7200 regular troops already deployed mostly from the Navy. 10,000 more guardsmen are expected to arrive in the next two days.
Concerns about a shortage of guardsmen because of deployments to Iraq have proven to be unfounded. Of 437,000 guardsmen nationwide only 17% are currently serving in Iraq and 78% of state guard forces are available at any given time for deployment nationwide. That includes large numbers of troops in the gulf states. As an operating standard all state guards are required to have at least 50% of their forces available for local deployment, and despite the fact that they have sent more troops to Iraq than northern states, all of the gulf states have 65% or more of their forces available.
So far 1700 guardsmen have been called in from Mississippi, 3600 from Louisiana and 1000 from Alabama. Texas and Florida have sent hurricane specialists with lots of experience dealing with this sort of disaster. This includes a special 90-man regional task force from Texas which brings with it special logistics and transport units, food distribution facilities and air support in the form of helicopters and cargo planes for bringing in supplies. Texas is also sending medics, doctors, game wardens and ambulances. Small numbers of specialized guard units, especially air support forces, are coming from much farther away, including California and New York.
If more men are needed, most of the gulf states have kept at least a third of their guard forces in reserve, including 3000 in Louisiana. Texas which has sent relatively few men but lots of materials and specialists, still has over 20,000 guardsmen available and not very far away should they be called for.
Because of its location away from the path of the storm, Texas has played a particularly large role in accomodating those fleeing from Katrina, with a dozen special refugee centers set up in the eastern part of the state, including one in the Astrodome in Houston, as well as lots of available hotel space in Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Austin. Schools in Houston and office are providing temporary shelter and many private citizens are also welcoming guests from Louisiana into their homes in Texas.
The best way that most of us can help out is through donations to appropriate charities. Stick with cash donations because clothing and other mateirals will not be of any immediate use. The most efficient and reliable place to send your donations is probably The Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund and you can either donate through their website or by calling 1-800-HELP-NOW.Powered by Sidelines