711th aids in relief efforts

Published 3:47 pm Monday, October 10, 2005

By By Janet Little Cooper
The 711th Signal Battalion headquartered in Mobile with units in Atmore, Grove Hill, Chatom, Foley and Bay Minette returned to their home armories in late September after being deployed to the Louisiana Gulf Coast to assist in Hurricane Katrina search and recovery.
Forty-Nine men from the Atmore unit worked for two weeks in Louisiana assisting with emergency response to Hurricane Katrina.
"Everyone came home, except for seven Atmore guardsmen who were sent back to help in the recovery efforts from Hurricane Rita." Norman Arnold, Alabama National Guard spokesman said.
The entire 711th Battalion returned earlier this year from a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq providing communications support to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Since Hurricane Katrina made landfall, 3000 Alabama Army and Air National Guard members have been called to state duty. Some 800 of these members have been in Alabama where they have performed search and rescue operations, security, traffic control and other humanitarian support missions.
More than 2,000 Alabama Army Guard members have been dispatched to assist Mississippi authorities in recovery operations.
In addition to the 711th Battalion, another Alabama unit had already been providing support in Louisiana. According to Arnold, the Alabama Army Guard's 20th Special Forces Group was sent to New Orleans with their Zodiac Boats to assist in rescue operations of stranded victims.
The 711th Battalion was sent to Slidell originally and assisted local law enforcement officers with door-to-door search and rescue operations by foot. The group also manned distribution sites where they distributed, water and MRE's.
They ultimately ended up in New Orleans." Arnold said, "The main mission of the 711th was security in New Orleans. We are not allowed to enforce security on our own, so the unit worked alongside local, state and federal law enforcement agencies."
Nearly 1,150 Alabama Army and Air National Guard members are on duty at locations across southwest Louisiana performing relief and recovery missions in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.
In the aftermath of both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, more than 31,000 National Guard troops from across the nation have delivered more than 5.5 million MRE's, nearly 7 million liters of water and 12 million pounds of ice. Military medical teams have vaccinated more than 18,000 individuals throughout the Gulf region.
Alabama Guard personnel serving in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas will remain on duty as long as needed.

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