NEW ORLEANS – The year 2020 has been an unprecedented year for the Louisiana National Guard. Between COVID response efforts, the busiest hurricane season since 2005 and a series of deployments, the LANG supported the longest emergency response effort in the state’s history.
In January, the adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, retired after 38 years of service, and Brig. Gen. D. Keith Waddell assumed command of the LANG.
The state's first COVID-19 case came in March. Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a public health emergency and issued a stay-at-home order, but the virus spread to thousands of people and the number of the dead began to accumulate.
The LANG supported relief efforts early on. Throughout the remainder of 2020, thousands of Soldiers and Airmen operated up to 25 medical testing sites and eight food banks. The LANG administered more than 300,000 tests, packaged more than 21 million pounds of food, distributed more than 56 million items of personal protective equipment and completed more than 4,500 PPE delivery missions of masks, gloves, ventilators, and Tyvek suits.
In April, three tornadoes hit Rapides Parish and the LANG helped clear nearly 600 loads of debris. During that operation, Soldiers packed more than 700 boxes of food a day for residents in need during the stay-at-home order.
In June, the LANG began preparing for the 2020 hurricane season while continuing COVID response missions. The LANG supported hurricane relief efforts for hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta and prepared for four additional named storms (Cristobal, Marco, Sally and Beta). More than 400 generator missions were fulfilled, with two ongoing.
Approximately 5,745,937 meals, 7,878,028 liters of water, 1,431,350 bags of ice and 267,431 tarps were distributed; 439 people and 35 pets were evacuated and 2,662 miles of road and 210 municipal facilities were cleared.
During hurricane relief efforts, the LANG stood up to protect lives and property, maintain communications and ensure the continuity of operations and government. More than 3,000 Guard members were called up just for Hurricane Laura, the 10th-strongest U.S. hurricane landfall by wind speed on record. The storm caused the deaths of at least 42 people in the United States and an estimated $14 billion in damages in southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas near the Gulf of Mexico.
By the end of August, more than 6,200 Guard members were supporting COVID and hurricane relief efforts simultaneously.
In October, just 43 days after Hurricane Laura, Hurricane Delta was set to smash through the same geographical area. Fortunately, within 22 hours of making landfall, Delta was downgraded to a tropical storm. The LANG evacuated 37 people and three pets, established 31 points of distribution for food and water and delivered an additional 75 generators to the same areas already heavily impacted by Hurricane Laura.
In November, there were a series of deployments from the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. More than 2,000 members of the Guard throughout the state deployed in support of Operation Spartan Shield, Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, Operation Atlantic Resolve, the European Deterrence Initiative and the Southwest Border Mission. Additional deployments by the 241st Military Public Affairs Detachment, the 1023rd Engineer Company, 922nd Engineer Company, and the 214th Engineering and Installation Squadron also occurred during this unique year.
By mid-November, the LANG had scaled its COVID and hurricane relief efforts down to more than 800 Soldiers and Airmen, as power and utilities were restored in affected parishes.
Throughout the year, the LANG responded to 15 cyber open-source missions for one week to two months.