01 September 2005

The National Guard, Iraq, and Disasters

Various spokesmen at various levels of the federal government have done their best since Katrina struck to assure people that there were still enough National Guard troops left at home to take care of disaster relief efforts. We were told, for example, that 60% of the Louisiana National Guard was not currently deployed overseas. We were not told which 60% that was.

Not all National Guard units are created equal. This statement is not in any way intended to reflect on the dedication or quality of the troops in any of the units. The simple fact is that different units have different missions, and therefore train differently and are equipped differently. This means that while every NG unit can provide valuable assistance in the aftermath of the storm, some units may have skill sets that are in more demand than others.

This got me to wondering what units of the Louisiana National Guard were deployed overseas, and what units were available at home for disaster relief, so I did a little research. Here's what I came up with:

I was not able, for understandable reasons, to directly access the Louisiana National Guard's website. I did, however, manage to read, via Google's cache, a list of National Guard units on active duty. The cached version of the page was obtained in early August, so it is possible that some of these units have returned in the last month, but this should at least give a reasonable overview of the situation. A listing of all Louisiana Army National Guard units was found on Globalsecurity.org. I'm not going to take the time to list everything individually, but here's the situation as far as I can tell from comparing these sites: currently, it appears that all of the main infantry units are deployed, the armor is deployed, the army aviation units are deployed, along with some engineers, field artillery, and some support units.

Left in Louisiana are three battalions of combat engineers. This is good news, since these are exactly the people who are good at cleaning things up, making emergency repairs, and that sort of disaster relief. Unfortunately, it appears that the deployment of the other units has left at least some of these troops responsible for security work rather than clean-up. For example, it would appear that one of the engineer battalions (527th EN BN) is the unit that is in charge at the Superdome. Other troops remaining in Louisiana include a maintenance company, a transportation company, a quartermaster battalion primarily responsible for fuel supply, a military intelligence battalion (minus a deployed detachement) that seems to be primarily composed of linguists, a regiment that handles training duties, and the 156th Army Band.

It may be that I am entirely wrong about this. It may be that an Army Band can put a stop to looting just as easily as an infantry unit. It may be that the military intelligence people can do as much to help evacuate an area as an Air Ambulance company can. In fact, I hope that I am wrong about all of this, since it will mean that the people of New Orleans are not suffering more hardship as a result of our reliance on the National Guard for the war in Iraq. Given some of the descriptions of the situation in New Orleans right now, though, I am very much afraid that I am not wrong.
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