By Debbie Stevenson
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD Teams from the 1st Cavalry Division and III Corps are joining recovery efforts in hurricane-ravaged Louisiana and Missis-sippi.
Two 1st Cavalry Black Hawk helicopters from the divisions 1st Air Cavalry Brigade left Tuesday for Baton Rouge, La., said Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, the divisions spokes-man.
Another eight are expected to head to an area near Baton Rouge and New Orleans today. About 65 to 70 soldiers will accompany the helicopters.
The crews will be led by Lt. Col. Christopher Joslin, commander of the 1st Cavalrys 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment.
The divisions helicopter crews are being sent as part of a Northern Command mission, Bleichwehl said. The command is supporting the Federal Emergency Manage-ment Agencys efforts in the storm-battered region.
They will be working for the 1st Army, which is supporting FEMA in this recovery effort, Bleichwehl said.
Katrina blew ashore early Monday with winds of 145 mph. Her 200-mile span demolished thousands of homes starting west of New Orleans and east to Pensacola, Fla., setting her up to be one of the most devastating storms on record for the United States.
The 1st Cavalrys missions in the region will include flying rapid needs assessment teams and flights to survey the damage, Bleichwehl said.
The First Team got word of the mission Monday evening.
Joslin said the call was not unexpected and he had told his commanders early on in the hurricane season that it could happen.
However, Joslin said no one expected the events that unfolded Tuesday.
I dont think we anticipated the amount of damage to be as bad as were seeing, Joslin said. As time goes on, the story gets worse.
The aviation brigade returned from spending a year in Iraq earlier this year. Many of those soldiers have since left the unit, but for the ones who remain, Joslin said the mission this time is more personal.
We have another situation where all we know is theres a lot of damage a lot of people need a lot of help. ... But its even more personal than just wanting to do what we can to help our fellow citizens out, Joslin said.
We have a lot of folks that have family who live on the coast, he noted. We have some extended and direct family members there. Some soldiers dont have a word on their status yet.
Then we have others that are excited to get the call, Joslin said. They want to take what they know and directly help Americans in need. They feel thats a big part of what they joined the military for.
Aviation teams from III Corps 21st Cavalry Brigade also will be sending in helicopters.
Calls to the Corps public affairs office seeking comment were not returned.
Joslin said the 1st Cavalrys mission is expected to last about a week to 10 days. The soldiers could stay longer if conditions warrant.
It depends on what we find, he said.
Contact Debbie Stevenson at firstname.lastname@example.org