Mississippi National Guard
JACKSON, Miss. - Tracking Hurricane Gustav and making preparations for a possible devastating landfall was being made as early as Aug. 28 for Mississippi National Guard emergency operations center (EOC) personnel.
National Guard EOCs at forward locations on the coast and a rear EOC in Jackson not only tracked the weather conditions of Hurricane Gustav, but also kept track of logistics, personnel, and coordination with local, state and national emergency agency officials for mission support.
Maj. Gen. William L. Freeman, Jr., the adjutant general of Mississippi, said lessons learned following Hurricane Katrina and from conducting hurricane response exercises, the Mississippi National Guard is better poised today to respond to the Mississippi coastal communities and provide emergency evacuation assistance, search and rescue, assistance to law enforcement, and other hurricane support operations. All of the support operations are driven through the MSNG EOCs.
With much pre-planning, structures were identified in Pearl River, Stone and George Counties that would withstand a Category Five hurricane while serving as staging areas for 500 Soldiers in each location, said Brig. Gen. James Gaston, the forward EOC commander. “We had a total of 1,500 guard troops on the ground pre-landfall for a much faster response before, during and after the storm.”
About 65 percent of authorized equipment was on-hand and the other 35 percent needed had been leased so the National Guard was 100 percent of the required equipment to respond.
Over 300 humveees and other vehicles were staged at Camp Shelby for initial hurricane response and for follow-on forces post landfall. Four redundant communications systems that would cover the entire costal area using satellite, two-way and cell phone systems were tested and allowed for communications with the military task force and local emergency officials. They prepared for as many as 8,000 Soldiers and Airmen to assist with support operations if needed.
Fortunately, landfall of Hurricane Gustav in Houma, La., Sept. 1, as a Category 1, seemed to bring relief to EOC personnel that this hurricane didn’t compare to Katrina, but just the same, said General Freeman: “The Mississippi National Guard is trained and ready to support hurricane operations on a moments notice to protect the lives and property in the Gulf Coast region and in other counties in south Mississippi.”