Missouri National Guard Public Affairs
Throughout southern Louisiana, Missouri National Guard Soldiers are distributing supplies and helping maintain law and order in the wake of widespread destruction and power outages caused by Hurricane Gustav.
“It’s our job to come down here and help people and do whatever we can,” said Sgt. Steve Bechtel, of Harrisonville, a member of the 1139th Military Police Company. “The nightly patrols are good for letting people know we’re here, and that they’re not down here by themselves.”
The Missouri Soldiers were anxious to help the people of Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Gustav.
“It’s a really good mission to help the people of Louisiana in their time of need,” said Spc. George Messmer, of the 1035th Support Maintenance Company. “I like doing this sort of thing. We’re doing something good and something with a purpose,”
Capt. Douglas McConnell, commander of the Missouri National Guard’s 1139th Military Police Company, said his Soldiers and those from the 1175th Military Police Company have been conducting patrols in Opelousas and surrounding towns.
“We’re providing teams of patrols that will be placed at high priority locations, such as gun shops and pharmacies,” McConnell said. “We’re working with local police and their narcotics departments.”
In Assumption Parrish, Pvt. Gary Story, of Palmyra, was on his first emergency duty mobilization. As he directed traffic outside an Ace Hardware store in Napoleonville, Story said it was a great opportunity for him to put his training to the test and learn from the veteran military policemen he serves with.
Inside the store, manager Terrance Biemah said the Missourians’ presence made him feel more secure.
“The Soldiers’ presence discourages shoplifting,” Biemah said. “They’re working excellently for us. We definitely appreciate their help.”
Sgt. Sam Wallace, of Hannibal, was stationed outside LeBlanc’s Payless Food Store fellow Guardsmen distributed food, water and ice in the parking lot. When the Guardsmen arrived, there were crowd control issues
“When we got here, people didn’t want to wait and were trying to cut in line,” Wallace said. “Now that we have the situation under control, people have been saying ‘thank you’ and asking us where we’re from.”
Jade St. Pierre, the store manager, said she was thankful that the Guardsmen were there and that they made the town residents feel a lot better. To show their gratitude, the store provided the Guardsmen with food and water throughout the day.
Meanwhile, Soldiers from the 311th Brigade Support Battalion moved forward with their part of the relief mission. Lt. Col. Mark Worley, battalion commander, said the operation was going as anticipated. It is a high-speed situation where Soldiers have to think on their feet and, at times, improvise to make the mission a success, Worley said.
“When you get orders issued to move real quick, and you really don’t have a good time of planning, you just fix things as you go,” Worley said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Denis Gladbach said that’s the Army way of life—roll with the punches and make things happen at a moment’s notice.
“You know the saying, ‘hurry up and wait,’” said Gladbach. “Not everybody is always that understanding. It’s good to know that the morale is still high. That’s the important part for me.”
The continuous upswing of morale within in the ranks comes from a grateful community and fellow Guardsmen from local Louisiana National Guard.
“It’s a great asset to the state of Louisiana,” said 1st Sgt. Shayne Bellina, of the Louisiana National Guard’s 928th Combat Engineer Company. “They were happy and ready to do their job and we really appreciate it.”
Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Levesque and his fellow Louisiana Guardsmen from the 1083rd Transportation Company, spent the day distributing food and water to those in need. Levesque said that knowing states like Missouri have kicked in to help keep he and his fellow Louisianans motivated.
“The whole National Guard is a big Family,” said Levesque. “The military is a Family, but the National Guard especially is a tight-knit group.”
The Missouri Guard’s hurricane response includes the following units: 70th Troop Command, of Jefferson Barracks; 205th Military Police Battalion, of Poplar Bluff; 1138th Military Police Company, of West Plains; 1137th Military Police, of St. Louis; 1175th Military Police, of St. Clair; 2175th Military Police Company, of Boonville; 1139th Military Police Company, of Harrisonville; 1140th Military Police Company, of Fulton; 1221st Transportation Company, of Dexter; 3175th Military Police Company, of Kennett; 35th Engineer Brigade, of Fort Leonard Wood; 880th Engineer Team (Haul), of Perryville; 220th Engineer Company, of Festus; 1141st Engineer Company, of Kansas City; 203rd Engineer Battalion, of Joplin; 203rd Forward Support Company, of Joplin; 294th Engineer Company, of Carthage; 311th Brigade Support Battalion, of Lexington; Company A, 311th Brigade Support Battalion, of Nevada; 548th Transportation Company, of Trenton; 20th Combat Aviation Brigade, of Sedalia; 1107th Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depot, of Springfield; 935th Aviation Support Battalion, of Springfield; 110th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, of Kansas City; Joint Force Missouri and Medical Detachment, of Jefferson City; and 7th Civil Support Team, of Fort Leonard Wood.