Local News

N.C.-Based Troops Headed To Gulf Region

Posted September 4, 2005 9:28 a.m. EDT

— Thousands of North Carolina-based troops were ordered Saturday by President Bush to help with disaster relief in areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

President Bush said soldiers from the Army's 82nd Airborne from Fort Bragg will be among the 7,000 troops slated to arrive in the next 72 hours. They also include troops from the Army's 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas, and the Marines' 1st and 2nd Expeditionary forces from Camp Pendleton, Calif., and North Carolina's Camp Lejeune.

Those troops will be in addition to 4,000 active duty troops and some 21,000 National Guard troops already in the region.

"We're not law-enforcement authorities. That's not our job, and we're not going down there to do that," MG Bill Caldwell, who is with the 82nd Airborne, said. "We're going to get our hands dirty, to help out and to be of assistance to the American people."

Maj. Amy Hannah, spokeswoman for the 82nd Airborne, said the division's ready brigade of some 3,000 soldiers in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment was starting to leave. The regiment was on duty in Iraq last year.

In addition, soldiers from the 82nd's 319th Field Artillery Regiment, Division Support Command, 82nd Aviation Brigade and 30th Engineer Battalion received orders to go to the Gulf Coast.

Hannah said the 82nd would be sending between 5,000 and 7,000 paratroopers in all.

"I was hoping to be in the sand right now, but there's nothing like helping your own," said 82nd Airborne member Zachary Demoos, who is from the Gulf Coast region.

Hurricane relief is nothing new to Fort Bragg soldiers. Since 1989, Fort Bragg troops have been deployed several times to places in the U.S. and to foreign countries to provide supplies.

Sixteen years ago, Fort Bragg soldiers went to the Virgin Islands following Hurricane Hugo. They provided relief and helped rebuild Saint Croix. Dozens of soldiers also volunteered to clean up in Charlotte.

Three years later, troops headed to Miami-Dade County, Fla., to help with Andrew's aftermath. Troops not only gave out supplies, they brought in heavy equipment to pick up debris.

In 1998, hundreds of soldiers went to Central America to help flood-ravaged survivors from Hurricane Mitch. That storm killed 10,000 people and destroyed 60 percent of the homes in some countries.

Pope Air Force Base personnel also loaded the first wave of about 400 soldiers Saturday onto C-17 Globemaster III airplanes from Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina, the base said.

Hannah said the soldiers were being sent "to protect Americans where we work and live."

Camp Lejeune was sending about 400 Marines. About 80 Marines were departing Saturday from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point to set up at a landing field near New Orleans for the arrival of more troops, said Capt. David Nevers of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit at Camp Lejeune.

More than 20 others went earlier to make sure the air station could handle a larger force. More than 300 Marines from Combat Service Support Detachment 24 will sail aboard the USS Shreveport and the USS Whidbey Island, taking equipment such as dump trucks, fork lifts, generator, Humvees and water purifiers.

Already, about 120 Marines from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing went to the region with 10 CH-53E heavy-lift helicopters, two CH-46E medium-lift helicopters and three UH-1N utility helicopters.

At least eight KC-130 transport airplanes also are being sent.