176th Wing members to remain on Gulf Coast in anticipation of Hurricane Ike
By 2Lt John T. Callahan, 176th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 16, 2008
KULIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Alaska -- The Governor of the State of Texas today formally requested National Guard assistance in anticipation of Hurricane Ike, expected to hit Texas as a Category 4 storm early on the morning of Sept. 13. In response, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin directed the Alaska Air National Guard's 176th Wing to keep two helicopters and approximately 30 wing members -- pararescuemen and helicopter aircrews who deployed Sept. 1 to the Gulf Coast in response to Hurricane Gustav - to remain in the Gulf Coast region to support expected search-and-rescue efforts.
The wing members have been aiding the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries - the state's lead search-and-rescue agency - in responding to the effects of Hurricane Gustav, said Lt. Col. Darrin Slaten, a helicopter pilot with the wing's 210th Rescue Squadron and the mission commander.
"We've covered almost the entire lower half of Louisiana, except for New Orleans, which had plenty of other agencies supporting it," Slaten said. "Gustav came in like a lion, but then came ashore more or less like a lamb. There were still areas without power, and some property damage, but it was nothing like Katrina, which is what everyone was preparing for. We have been covering southern Louisiana to assess the situation, and enable Louisiana's Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to make the determination that the situation is returning to normal."
Slaten said his group had not, as of yet, been required to perform any evacuations or render medical assistance.
"Our success here is obviously not measured in saves, but by what we're prepared to accomplish," he noted. "We have the right assets here. Everybody's happy to help. The first four or five days were somewhat hurried, which made for long, busy days for our people. But our guys thrive in that environment, and are ready to do it again."
The Alaska Air National Guard members are deployed under the auspices of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a program that allows guard units to mobilize upon request to render assistance to other states. Under their current orders they will serve in this capacity until Sept. 17, although that date may be extended depending on the way events unfold in the wake of Hurricane Ike.
Alaska is one of several state guard organizations rendering assistance to the Gustav impact zone.