Local Guard Engineers return to Northeast Louisiana to offer storm assistance
By Sgt. Angela K. Fry
528th Engineer Battalion Unit Public Affairs Representative
MONROE, La. - About 48 hours after landfall of Hurricane Gustav along the coast of South Louisiana, 70 Soldiers from the Louisiana Army National Guard’s 528th Engineer Battalion in Monroe, La., returned home to offer storm assistance to members of their own communities.
Soldiers from the Headquarters Support Company, the Forward Support Company, and the 830th and 832nd Concrete and Asphalt Companies returned to the armory in Monroe after the Northeast Louisiana area received high winds and torrential rains, which caused flooding in low-lying areas.
“We are proud to offer assistance to the local parish Emergency Operations Centers in whatever capacity we are needed,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Brent D. Barnett of Chatham, La. “The purpose of the National Guard is to provide humanitarian relief and to be the first-line defense for our home front.
“It is especially rewarding to be able to offer that assistance in our own backyards to our families and friends."
Barnett said the battalion will continue to work in various parishes around Northeast Louisiana. “I want to stress to the residents of Northeast Louisiana that the we are proud to take on the lion’s share of the responsibility in helping these communities get back on their feet.”
Soldiers from the local battalion returned from a four-day assignment to the Lake Charles, La., area to provide assistance in security, flood relief and humanitarian missions.
Staff Sgt. Benjamin J. Bell of Monroe, La., said local Soldiers are providing humanitarian assistance and security to the special needs shelter at Fant-Ewing Coliseum on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
“The mission originally started with us providing security,” said Bell, who is assigned to HSC. “We have helped clean up, we’ve lifted patients onto buses for dialysis treatments and taken patients to the bathroom. Basically, we are just trying to provide support for them any way we can.”
Bell added that Soldiers from the 528th will provide assistance to the facility, which is manned by volunteers from the Ouachita Parish Health Unit and the ULM School of Nursing, as long as they are needed.
Soldiers from the battalion have also been providing sandbags and performing rescue missions for people who live in low-lying areas. The rescue missions included removal of people and property from flooded areas with high-water vehicles like the Light Medium Tactical Vehicle.
“We have been filling sandbags for most of the day,” said Spc. Lisa Henry of Monroe, La. “People from Monroe, West Monroe and Sterlington have been streaming in to this area.”
“When they come, it seems like they come 30 at a time,” Henry said.
Barnett said about 40 Soldiers from the 528th are assisting the Monroe Police Department with security missions at the evacuation shelter in the Monroe Civic Center. This mission was scheduled to end on Sept. 6, and the Soldiers articipating in the mission would be reassigned to conduct other vital missions in the area.