LAKE CHARLES, La. (KLFY) — About 53% of residents in Calcasieu Parish now have water. The majority of people still don’t have electricity. News 10 anchor Tracy Wirtz spent the day with the Louisiana National Guard and found out their mission is changing.
She spent the day at the Lake Charles Civic Center, where soldiers with the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team have been handing out supplies like water, ice and tarps. As they continue their mission here in Louisiana, another one halfway around the world is quickly approaching.
“I will say this is worse than anything,” said Col. David Desormeaux. “The wind damage and the amount of damage to the power grid, and I’ve never seen anything quite like this.”
Desormeaux leads the 256th Infantry Brigade. He and other members of his team compare the devastation they’ve seen here to what they saw in Baghdad. These soldiers have responded to several storms over the years, and that response starts almost immediately.
“Within 12 hours of this storm clearing the area, we already had about 350 soldiers on the ground providing security,” said Desormeaux.
There are 2,400 National Guardsmen working in eight parishes setting up points of distribution, but their focus is shifting over the next week.
“The brigade is going to begin to transition out of this area because we have to prepare for deployment,” said Desormeaux.
The state is currently establishing a task force to replace members of the 256th in affected areas, and residents will still get the help they need. Col. Desormeaux says the soldiers will begin pre-deployment training in the middle of October.
“All this equipment you see right now, as soon as we wrap up here, we’re going to bring it back, get it cleaned up and inspected and fixed and ready to go in five weeks,” he said.
Moving all of the soldiers and their equipment out of a hurricane recovery zone is quite a task. Having to turn it so quickly in preparation to go overseas seems daunting.
“This is just what the guard guys do,” said Desormeaux. “We execute the state mission to save our state residents’ lives and then we turn around and go.”
For security reasons, they couldn’t tell us where exactly they will be going overseas. For now, they are running their command center on the campus of McNeese State University and working to help as many Louisiana residents as possible recover.
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