Soldiers aid in Gustav mission
A military detachment under the command of Lt. Sean Trobaugh came to Orange highly trained and well prepared for whatever Hurricane Gustav brought to the area.
Trobaugh’s command consisted of the 72nd Brigade Combat Team, Brigade Special Troops Battalion of the Army National Guard based in Houston, and the 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment of the Texas State Guard.
The military detachment was accompanied by Angela Walker, R.N. and Lari Bender, L.V.N. from Angel Staffing of San Antonio. The nurses were to provide advanced medical attention needed beyond the scope of the medic’s duties.
“We have so far provided triage for the evacuees, along with the medics. As the people came in for evacuation we checked them out to see what level of care they may need and then sent them on to transportation for their transport to either shelter or medical assistance as needed,” said Bender.
“As long as we are needed we will accompany the military unit assigned here,” said Walker.
Gary Gray, a driver with Suncoast Transit Corporation was following the military convoy with a tanker loaded with fuel. “A lot of diesel and a little gasoline,” said Gray. “I go with them, wherever they go. It is my job to keep them furnished with the fuel they need.”
“There are several duties we are here to provide. First is to assist the evacuees in any way needed through the evacuation. We will then be here to also assist with the evacuee retrieval. As the evacuees return we will assist them as we are needed.
Another function of our units is that we are trained in high water rescue. We have the vehicles that are able to drive through high waters to assist those that may be stranded. It could have been possible that the Lamar Orange Student Center could have been under 12 feet of water if the storm would have been a direct hit.
We also provide ‘follow on services’. That would be to deliver food, water, ice and other needed supplies to anyone that would remain in the area, especially to assist the county emergency rescue agencies.
We also transition to ground services and would assist in clearing streets where needed and provide similar tasks that the emergency agencies would ask us to do. Our assistance has been given in registering people who are evacuees and then helping to locate and track them as would be required,” said Trobaugh. “The total number of personnel here is 22 Army National Guard and 19 from the Texas State Guard.”
The two guard units had been assigned at the Lamar State College Orange Student Center. As of Monday morning with the storm not making a direct hit on Orange the units were separated.
The Texas State Guard was moved to Beaumont. The Army National Guard unit was moved into the Emergency Operations Center with the Orange County emergency agencies.
“I have been impressed with the way that all the agencies here have cooperated. They have all had the same goal, working together for the good of the people. There is a level of cooperation here that I have seldom seen anywhere else that we have been assigned. In particular Sheriff Mike White has done an outstanding job and has been a pleasure to work with. He has been a tremendous asset to Orange County in this situation. I feel honored to have been a part of this mission,” said Trobaugh.
The Orange County emergency personnel was using the AT&T building as the command center and the facility of First Methodist Church located next door to the command center as the kitchen and dormitory for the personnel.
Some Orange county personnel had begun to move in. Friday morning. The need for food started with lunch Friday.
All of the cooking has been done by Marlene and Robert Merritt, wife and son of sheriff-elect Keith Merritt.
The duo has provided meals for as many as 87 on Sunday.
Averaging between 100 and 150 meals a day, the menu has ranged from cold sandwiches and hot dogs to spaghetti and meat sauce.
Breakfast menus have included a bowl of cereal or a hot breakfast of biscuits, gravy, anything the Merritts could think of.
Breakfast, lunch, supper, and a meal at midnight for those on the night shift are served. They try to serve two hot meals a day. Sunday, a group came that hadn’t had a hot meal in two days. Three hot meals were served that day.
Monday the Army National Guard personnel moved into the dormitory and lined up for their first hot meal in two days. They had been “feasting” on MRE’s, Meals Ready to Eat, from their rations and food that was brought in by the local Red Cross.
The soldiers were appreciative of the hot dogs and the Merritts volunteering to provide hot food.