This item originally appeared in the September 23, 2004 issue of The Tech Talk.
By RINDY METCALF
Members of Ruston's 527th Engineering Battalion, as part of the Louisiana National Guard, were dispatched last week to New Orleans, Plaquemine and Lafayette to prepare for a possible disaster relief mission in Hurricane Ivan's path.
A security force was deployed to secure the shelter at the Superdome in New Orleans, five engineering teams were sent to Lafayette to wait out the storm, and a "ready reaction force" was sent to Plaquemine.
Lt. Col. David McGee, commander of the 527th Engineering Battalion, said because Ivan did not hit Louisiana as hard as anticipated, all members of the 527th Battalion returned home in time to attend class last Friday.
"[We're] lucky it wound up being a rehearsal for us," McGee said. "We've just got to be ready to go again."
McGee said any time there is a hurricane, tornado or forest fire in Louisiana, the 527th Battalion prepares to lend its services to the community.
Although the five engineering teams and the ready reaction force in Plaquemine were not needed, the members of those teams still have work to do.
To prepare to "go again," McGee said, the battalion is already working on prepackaging and preloading equipment.
Tech Police Chief Stephen Quinnelly, a staff sergeant in the National Guard, arrived in Lafayette via five-ton dump truck at 12:30 a.m. Thursday to help prepare equipment for the 125 soldiers that arrived at the camp later that day.
Quinnelly said of his fellow soldiers, "At a moment's notice they responded to help out fellow members of the state."
The 527th Engineering Battalion has lent its aid to the victims of Hurricane Lilly, various tornadoes in Bossier City and forest fires in south Louisiana.
Pat Dunn, a sergeant in the 527th Battalion and a junior marketing major, said he spent his time in Plaquemine preparing troops as a squad leader for the security force.
"We stood ready and willing for what could have occurred," Dunn said.
Robert Vento, university registrar, said his role in helping students who are being deployed for military missions is to smooth their transition from student to soldier and back again.
"I function as part of a team of individuals from financial aid, comptroller and the registrar's staffs," Vento said. "We help the soldiers understand that we will be here for them when they return and not to worry about school issues at the time of deployment for natural disaster relief."
Vento said other units, as well as the 527th Battalion, from a military police unit in Shreveport to a transportation unit from Minden were deployed to stand ready for relocation to Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Gulf, if they were needed.
Vento said the Louisiana National Guard belongs to the state and any of its units can be mobilized anywhere within the state if there is a possibility they will be needed.
He also said under federal orders a Louisiana unit can be dispatched somewhere else if that decision is reached among Governor Kathleen Blanco, the governor of the state in need and the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C.