OKLAHOMA CITY – More than 350 Oklahoma Guardsmen arrived in Louisiana Wednesday and began coordinating with the Louisiana National Guard to assist with Hurricane Ida relief.
Oklahoma Guardsmen expect to provide general support, including distributing supplies to people, clearing debris, providing security and levee reinforcement. They are joining up to 8,000 Guard members from around the country who are assisting with the response to Hurricane Ida, which struck Louisiana Aug. 29 with 150 mph winds and torrential rain.
"As the mission continues to unfold, we are prepared to support Louisiana with anything from distribution of supplies to clearing roads," said Lt. Col. Tonia Toben, deputy commander for the 90th Troop Command, the command leading Task Force 90 from Oklahoma. "We are prepared to help however we can."
Lt. Col. Brad Dean, TF90 commander on-ground in Louisiana, said the task force will be joined by an additional 100 Oklahoma Guardsmen, and Louisiana can modify its request for support any time.
While Oklahoma does not experience hurricanes, this isn't the first hurricane relief mission for Oklahoma Guardsmen. The Oklahoma National Guard helped respond to Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Some Guardsmen who were on-ground during Katrina relief efforts 16 years ago are now in leadership positions. Toben, who was a junior logistics officer during the Hurricane Katrina response, is now overseeing Oklahoma's response to Hurricane Ida.
"It gives us some interesting insight into the challenges the Soldiers will face. We are moving into an area that has been storm-ravaged," Toben said. "With our past experiences and advances in logistics over the last 16 years, we can apply the lessons learned to make us more effective. We can take [better] care of our Soldiers that are going today and [more efficiently] support this mission."
Task Force 90 is made up of Oklahoma Army and Air National Guardsmen from the 90th Troop Command, 45th Field Artillery Brigade, 45th Infantry Brigade, 137th Special Operations Wing and 138th Fighter Wing.
"It is comforting to know that we still have young men and young women that are willing to answer this call and go do what our nation needs us to do," said Maj. Gen. Michael Thompson, adjutant general for Oklahoma, during remarks to the deploying Guardsmen. "You all are leaving your communities, your jobs, your families and you are answering this call. Thank you for who you are and thank you for what you represent."
The request for up to 500 Oklahoma Guardsmen came early Monday from Louisiana's Office of Emergency Management to Oklahoma Emergency Management. Under the Emergency Management Assistant Compact, states can assist one another with resources such as the National Guard during declared emergencies.