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War Stories: Deployed In New Orleans In Response To Hurricane Katrina

Check out this soldier's account of being sent to NOLA after the storm.


Hurricane Katrina hit the area around New Orleans the night of August 29, 2005 and by 15 September my Battalion, 3rd BN 505th PIR, was alerted for a possible deployment to support at that time what was known as Operation Pelican. Rumors flew around as to what we would actually be doing down there. The rumors ran the gamut from handing out MREs to full scale clearing operations. Day by day we grew more impatient as we watched the news and heard stories of police getting into full scale firefights, the National Guard being overran and most disturbingly of the mass rapes that were right then happening in the dark Superdome. NCOs who had been deployed were busy readying our new soldiers on urban combat and night operations as we had just returned from Iraq that last year. In our minds as NCOs we didn’t care what country someone was from. “If anybody shoots at us they are the enemy,” was a common saying heard throughout the Company area. Officers who heard this talk immediately attempted to stomp it out by using phrases such as, “Those are Americans you’re talking about,” but as most of these young officers had not deployed, their words fell on deaf ears.


Finally, the day to deploy arrived, and as we loaded up the same HMMWV’s we had in Iraq shock was expressed throughout the Company. No crew-served weapons, no mortars, and no body armor! Of course, we all knew that crew-served weapons and mortars would be useless in a humanitarian situation, but these tools had become as essential as car keys and cell phones. Many NCOs had their soldiers sneak body armor on to the vehicles, under seats and in bags. As we rolled from Fort Bragg in a 150-vehicle convey, the order to wear our signature maroon berets came out over the net. We were supposed to keep the berets on the entire trip, costing me my favorite maroon beret five minutes into the movement.


The movement took us two and half days of driving, switching out with the driver, he and I would take shifts. Often we would stop at a truck stop and gas up the entire Battalion, as we were moving too fast to set up an actual fuel point. Surprisingly, we had a few breakdowns but arrived in New Orleans on time. Driving through the French Quarter on the way to the New Orleans Naval Annex was a total shock. The devastation was impressive, destroyed buildings, cars flipped upside down in houses, and houses even washed into the middle of the street. As we approached the Naval Annex, we drove through an area near a propane storage facility. This building had exploded and set fires for blocks around. It immediately took me straight back to Iraq. The only differences were that all the signs were in English and the police looked like Americans.

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