Paramilitary: September 5, 2005
As of Friday, September 2, 2005, a substantial amount of U.S. military power has been committed to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in New Orleans and around the Gulf Coast.
The Navy is sending numerous ships from the East Coast with the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier Harry Truman steaming to the region. Truman will act as a command-and-control platform for the ad hoc fleet once it comes on station by early Sunday, providing a floating staging base for helicopter operations. Normally carrying up to 80 warplanes, Truman will instead carry additional helicopters from the Jacksonville Naval Air Station to support relief efforts.
The Truman will join a fleet that includes amphibious ships USS Bataan (LHD 5), USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), USS Shreveport (LPD 12), USS Tortuga (LSD 46), USS Grapple (ARS 53), USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41) and USNS Arctic (TAOE 8) in the Gulf of Mexico. USS Bataan (LHD-5), an amphibious assault ship, began relief operations Tuesday night. Embarked helicopter squadrons have rescued over 200 stranded personnel in two days of flying. USS Whidbey Island, a LSD (Landing Ship DOC) is bring a movable causeway to the region; many bridges have been wiped out.
Military hospital ship USNS Comfort is departing Baltimore on September 2 and expected to arrive in the Gulf (of Mexico) by September 8. Comfort will provide a 1,000 bed hospital and 12 operating rooms off-shore.
On the ground, at least 30,000 National Guard troops will move into the region to provide support to the relief efforts, including providing security. At least 4,200 National Guard Military Police deployed to New Orleans over the next three days to help restore order. So far, Guardsmen from West Virginia, Washington, D.C., Utah, New Mexico, Missouri, Oklahoma, Washington state, Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan and Arkansas have been sent to the stricken region or are awaiting deployment orders. In addition, the Army is preparing for the possibility of deploying larger number of active-duty troops to the region. It had placed 7,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division on alert. The troops would deploy to New Orleans to provide crowd control and site protection. Critics of the relief effort are pointing out nearly 8,000 Guard troops from Mississippi and Louisiana are currently serving in Iraq and their absence has sorely affected relief operations.
The Marines have dispatched at least ten CH-53 helicopters, two CH-64 helicopters, three UH-1s, and an AH-1 gunship to the region, from drawing bases in North Carolina, Willow Grove, PA, Marietta, GA, and Bell Chase, LA.
In the air, the Air Guard is providing C-130 transports into the region, and Air Force crews are working to make New Orleans International Airport and Lafayette Regional Airport operational for supply flights by C-17 and C-5 transport plans. The 347th Rescue wing says its helicopters had rescued 211 people in Mississippi. On Thursday, the Air Force had a U-2 fly over the Gulf Coast, snapping high-resolution pictures to help determine the extent of damage. Doug Mohney