Hurricane Katrina made its landfall as a Category 3 hurricane on August 29, 2005 in southeast Louisiana.
New Orleans, Louisiana was flooded as its levee system collapsed; in many cases hours after the storm had moved inland. Eventually 80% of the city and large tracts of neighboring parishes became flooded, and the flood waters lingered for weeks.
More than 1,000 Georgia Guardsmen and nearly 200 Georgia State Defense Force (GSDF) Soldiers contributed to Katrina’s relief operations. In disaster areas, the Guardsmen conducted patrol missions, manned relief centers, established communication nodes with local authorities, and distributed relief supplies.
GSDF Public Affairs Officer Captain Clark Howard flew to New Orleans, where he participated in triage activities and helped calm evacuees. During his time of assistance, he gave his own 3 day water and food supply to evacuees.
Georgia Guardsmen assisted in evacuation of injured and ill citizens to various cities. Soldiers of the GSDF worked tirelessly for five days in Dobbins Air Reserve Base, unloading hundreds of evacuees, while the GSDF medical team under direction of Colonel John S. Harvey, GSDF Command Surgeon, assessed and cared for the patients, many of whom were in wheel chairs. The ability of the GSDF to mobilize trained soldiers at a moment’s notice was a key part of the Georgia Guard’s hurricane response.
“As soon as we were called, we put helicopters in the air and troops on the road to Louisiana and Mississippi,” said Maj. Gen. David Poythress, Georgia’s Adjutant General, in Dec. 2005. “Georgia Guardsmen were instrumental in saving lives, distributing supplies and searching for those trapped in their homes by rising waters. Just as important, your all-volunteer Georgia State Defense Force mobilized to assist evacuees who were flown to Dobbins Air Reserve Base. It was truly a team effort.”
The GSDF is a legally constituted element of the Georgia Department of Defense, serving in support of the national and state constitutions under direction of the Governor and the Adjutant General of the State of Georgia. GSDF Soldiers are trained and ready to provide support to National Guard and civil authorities on short notice.