BOISE – About 400 members of the Idaho National Guard will travel to Louisiana this week to help out in the aftermath of the region’s two major hurricanes.
About 250 Idaho National Guard and 150 Air National Guard airmen were told Saturday to report to Gowen Field in Boise today, Idaho National Guard spokeswoman Lt. Col. Stephanie Dowling said. The call came in response to a request to Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne Friday from another governor – Dowling didn’t know which one.
“It’s a call on the civilian side – a governor-to-governor request,” Dowling said Sunday.
The call went out to several states, she added.
Washington state announced Friday that it is planning to send 600 Guard members in the next week, and the Oregon National Guard already has 1,400 troops in the Gulf region.
A few of the Idaho soldiers will fly down to Alexandria, La., today, and the rest will follow Tuesday and Wednesday, Dowling said. The Air National Guard will transport as many as it can, along with equipment and supplies, in its three C-130 airplanes. The rest will make the 2,200-mile trip south in a convoy of vehicles, Kempthorne’s office said in a prepared statement.
The Idaho National Guard will be taking more than 100 vehicles, the statement said. The soldiers are expected to be in the Gulf Coast region for at least 31 days.
Idaho has 1,700 National Guard 116th Brigade combat team members deployed overseas in Iraq. They are expected to be home by late December. Another 50 Air National Guard members are employed overseas, not necessarily in Iraq, Dowling said. After the 400 leave this week for Louisiana, Idaho will still have 2,000 Guard members at home.
Dowling said Idaho National Guard members have been deployed in the past to help fight wildfires or help out after flooding in the Western states, but it is unusual for them to be asked to travel so far to help out within the United States.
“I think what’s happened on this one is that the devastation is so great over such a wide area that the National Guard has been tasked to provide a lot of people to help,” she said.
The Guard members will be providing security and helping with cleanup, she said.
Rescue crews in the Gulf Coast were still searching Sunday for people stranded in flooding after two major hurricanes, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, hit the region within the past few weeks.
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