With the home of the Louisiana National Guard still in ruins, a show of force as the state mobilized its military for hurricane season. At the guard's new home in Camp Beauregard in Pineville, Louisiana, the state deployed 80 brand new military trucks.
"Just got them. Hopefully we'll be able to help out in the hurricane in these things," one guardsman said. They went to staging areas across the state to be at the ready in case another hurricane threatens.
The 80 high water vehicles can be used in urban search and rescues. The pentagon fast-tracked them so they could be here just in time for hurricane season.
"We have taken very seriously the lessons learned from Katrina and Rita," said Major General Bennett Landreneau, the Adjutant General of the Louisiana National Guard.
Hurricane Katrina caught the guard off guard. Its water destroyed dozens of military trucks and boats staged at the guard's base in Jackson Barracks in New Orleans.
"We are much better prepared this hurricane season, we have more personnel, we have more equipment," Major General Landreneau explained.
This also includes better radios to solve communication problems that plagued first responders during Katrina. Plus, the Louisiana guard will arrive earlier, as a storm approaches to work with police in case looting again breaks out.
During Katrina, Louisiana relied heavily on guard units from other states to perform rescues and provide security. This was partly because three thousand Louisiana soldiers were in Iraq with the hurricane hit. This time, nearly all of the state's ten thousand guardsmen and women have returned home.
"These soldiers having served in Iraq, they've developed their skills, so they come back polished and ready to go," said Col. Michael Wood.
SFC Joseph Rotolo added, "Let's just say it's better than being in Iraq, nobody shooting at you anymore."
Among those ready to go Specialist Glenn Fitzner, whose family lost their Slidell home to the hurricane. "I'd rather be here helping my fellow neighbors than be somewhere else," Fitzner said.
Many here are war veterans and hurricane victims, leaving one kind of battle to prepare for another.
By Jonathan Betz