By Army Sgt. Scott Tynes
102nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
GULFPORT, Miss. (8/29/12) - Approximately 1,500 members of the Mississippi Army National Guard have responded to worsening weather conditions along the state’s coast as Hurricane Isaac slowly crawls northward.
Since Monday, more than 20 units from across the state have arrived along the Gulf Coast, including military police and others with civil support abilities that would enable them to assist local authorities in recovery and relief efforts.
“Our purpose was to ensure we were prepared to respond as soon as safely possible after the storm passes,” said Army Col. Lee W. Smithson, director of military support for the Mississippi Army Guard. “Additionally, we will assist local civil authorities in pre-storm evacuations, traffic control, and other activities.”
Guard members scouted potential sites for the distribution of food and water and established communications with the various local authorities. The service members also conducted presence patrols to let residents know they were there to assist and to become familiar with the area since many of the Guardsmen are from different regions of the state. They occasionally assisted local law enforcement by blocking flooded roads to curb injuries and incidents of stranded motorists as the waters began to rise.
“We can assist with local presence patrols, static checkpoints and evacuation of flood-prone areas using high mobility vehicles,” Smithson said. “Further, we assisted the Jackson County Red Cross Chapter in delivering food to shelters in our trucks.”
Mississippi’s response to the massive damage sustained on the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 gave state leaders an opportunity to evaluate and improve in certain areas.
“The main difference is in communications,” Smithson said. “We have a very robust and redundant communications system that allows us to not only talk to each other, but also to the first responders.”
Improved communications helps with faster response times and allows for greater coordination among the many agencies to minimize the effects of the storm, he said.
As Hurricane Isaac edges closer, Mississippi Guard members stand ready to assist, said Smithson.