HomeNewsArticle Display

Life after Katrina, Airmen ready to help again

LOUIS ARMSTRONG NEW ORLEANS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, La. -- Senior Airman Portia Payton talks to hurricane evacuee Betty Porter here Sept. 4. Airman Payton sat with Ms. Porter for almost four hours while talking, feeding and offering her water before her aeromedical evacuation flight to Lake Charles, La.  Airman Payton is a medical technician from the 59th Medical Wing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason Tudor)

LOUIS ARMSTRONG NEW ORLEANS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, La. -- Senior Airman Portia Payton talks to hurricane evacuee Betty Porter here Sept. 4. Airman Payton sat with Ms. Porter for almost four hours while talking, feeding and offering her water before her aeromedical evacuation flight to Lake Charles, La. Airman Payton is a medical technician from the 59th Medical Wing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason Tudor)

NEW ORLEANS -- Tech. Sgt. Lem Torres and a young boy are lifted to safety from the roof of the child's flooded home. The pararescueman is from 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., and is deployed to New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina search-and-rescue operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

NEW ORLEANS -- Tech. Sgt. Lem Torres and a young boy are lifted to safety from the roof of the child's flooded home. The pararescueman is from 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., and is deployed to New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina search-and-rescue operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

NEW ORLEANS -- Army and Air Force rescue helicopters depart on their next mission Sept. 2.  They are part of a massive operation to evacuate victims in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jack Braden)

NEW ORLEANS -- Army and Air Force rescue helicopters depart on their next mission Sept. 2. They are part of a massive operation to evacuate victims in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jack Braden)

NEW ORLEANS -- Maj. Stacia Blyeu comforts an elderly patient at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport moments before she is evacuated from here Sept. 3.  Major Blyeu is a flight nurse with the 452nd Air Evacuation Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, Calif.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt Jack Braden)

NEW ORLEANS -- Maj. Stacia Blyeu comforts an elderly patient at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport moments before she is evacuated from here Sept. 3. Major Blyeu is a flight nurse with the 452nd Air Evacuation Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt Jack Braden)

NEW ORLEANS -- Tech. Sgt. Lem Torres surveys houses Sept. 2 looking for victims of Hurricane Katrina.  Sergeant Torres is a pararescueman in the 38th Rescue Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Ga.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

NEW ORLEANS -- Tech. Sgt. Lem Torres surveys houses Sept. 2 looking for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Sergeant Torres is a pararescueman in the 38th Rescue Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Ga. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

OVER NEW ORLEANS -- Tech. Sgt. Keith Berry looks down into flooded streets searching for survivors.  He is part of an Air Force Reserve team credited with saving more than 1,040 people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  He is a pararescueman with the 304th Rescue Squadron from Portland, Ore.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Bill Huntington)

OVER NEW ORLEANS -- Tech. Sgt. Keith Berry looks down into flooded streets searching for survivors. He is part of an Air Force Reserve team credited with saving more than 1,040 people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He is a pararescueman with the 304th Rescue Squadron from Portland, Ore. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Bill Huntington)

ELLINGTON FIELD, Texas -- Emergency responders here line up to help unload injured evacuees Sept. 3.  C-130 Hercules crews from the 50th Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., teamed up with Airmen from the 452nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., to relocate sick and injured patients devastated after Hurricane Katrina.  (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jon Quinlan)

ELLINGTON FIELD, Texas -- Emergency responders here line up to help unload injured evacuees Sept. 3. C-130 Hercules crews from the 50th Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., teamed up with Airmen from the 452nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., to relocate sick and injured patients devastated after Hurricane Katrina. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jon Quinlan)

LOUIS ARMSTRONG NEW ORLEANS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, La. -- Air Force medics tend to patients awaiting airlift.  C-130 Hercules crews from the 50th Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., teamed up with Airmen from the 452nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., to relocate sick and injured patients devastated after Hurricane Katrina.  (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jon Quinlan)

LOUIS ARMSTRONG NEW ORLEANS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, La. -- Air Force medics tend to patients awaiting airlift. C-130 Hercules crews from the 50th Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., teamed up with Airmen from the 452nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., to relocate sick and injured patients devastated after Hurricane Katrina. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jon Quinlan)

SAN ANTONIO -- One week after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Airman Basic Tylar Pittman reunites with her father, Timothy Pittman.  Mr. Pittman was evacuated to San Antonio from New Orleans after the hurricane rendered him homeless.  The emotional reunion was the first time the two had seen each other in three years.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Mark Borosch)

SAN ANTONIO -- One week after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Airman Basic Tylar Pittman reunites with her father, Timothy Pittman. Mr. Pittman was evacuated to San Antonio from New Orleans after the hurricane rendered him homeless. The emotional reunion was the first time the two had seen each other in three years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Mark Borosch)

NEW ORLEANS -- A young Hurricane Katrina survivor hugs her rescuer, Staff Sgt. Mike Maroney, after she was relocated to the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, La., on Sept. 7.  Sergeant Maroney is a pararescueman from the 58th Rescue Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Veronica Pierce)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 10 of 15

NEW ORLEANS -- A young Hurricane Katrina survivor hugs her rescuer, Staff Sgt. Mike Maroney, after she was relocated to the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, La., on Sept. 7. Sergeant Maroney is a pararescueman from the 58th Rescue Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Veronica Pierce)

NEW ORLEANS -- Capt. Gary Hardy helps prepare sick and injured people for a flight aboard a C-17 Globemaster III. They are being evacuated from the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina to Dobbins Air Force Base, Ga. Captain Hardy a flight nurse with the 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, at Pope AFB, N.C., and other Air Force Critical Care Aeromedical Teams have cared for thousands of evacuees. The aircraft and flight crew are from the 446th Airlift Wing at McChord Air Force Base, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 11 of 15

NEW ORLEANS -- Capt. Gary Hardy helps prepare sick and injured people for a flight aboard a C-17 Globemaster III. They are being evacuated from the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina to Dobbins Air Force Base, Ga. Captain Hardy a flight nurse with the 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, at Pope AFB, N.C., and other Air Force Critical Care Aeromedical Teams have cared for thousands of evacuees. The aircraft and flight crew are from the 446th Airlift Wing at McChord Air Force Base, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Students with the 332nd and 335th Training Squadrons here prepare to be evacuated to Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, aboard a C-17 Globemaster III from the 58th Airlift Squadron, Altus AFB, Okla., Sept. 1. More than 2400 students and non essential personnel will be evacuated from Keesler because of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Mike Buytas)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 12 of 15

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Students with the 332nd and 335th Training Squadrons here prepare to be evacuated to Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, aboard a C-17 Globemaster III from the 58th Airlift Squadron, Altus AFB, Okla., Sept. 1. More than 2400 students and non essential personnel will be evacuated from Keesler because of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Mike Buytas)

NEW ORLEANS -- Medics from throughout the Air Force, including the 433rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and the 375th Medical Group from, Scott Air Force Base, Ill.. evacuate patients from the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.  The medics are part of the Mobile Aeromedical Staging Facility set up at the airport in support of Hurricane Katrina relief operations.  Patients leaving here aboard Air Force aircraft will continue to receive medical care from on-board Critical Care Air Transport Teams.  (U.S. Air Force photo Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 13 of 15

NEW ORLEANS -- Medics from throughout the Air Force, including the 433rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and the 375th Medical Group from, Scott Air Force Base, Ill.. evacuate patients from the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. The medics are part of the Mobile Aeromedical Staging Facility set up at the airport in support of Hurricane Katrina relief operations. Patients leaving here aboard Air Force aircraft will continue to receive medical care from on-board Critical Care Air Transport Teams. (U.S. Air Force photo Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Fire department officials examine the charred rubble of the home belonging to Col. Bruce Bush, 81st Mission Support Group commander, Sept. 1. The house exploded during Hurricane Katrina, a Category 4 storm that roared through the base three days earlier. Katrina battered the Gulf Coast with wind gusts in excess of 140 mph, flattening buildings and flooding areas from Florida to Louisiana. Millions of people are left without power, and hundreds of thousands are homeless. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jennifer C. Wallis)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 14 of 15

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Fire department officials examine the charred rubble of the home belonging to Col. Bruce Bush, 81st Mission Support Group commander, Sept. 1. The house exploded during Hurricane Katrina, a Category 4 storm that roared through the base three days earlier. Katrina battered the Gulf Coast with wind gusts in excess of 140 mph, flattening buildings and flooding areas from Florida to Louisiana. Millions of people are left without power, and hundreds of thousands are homeless. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jennifer C. Wallis)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- As Hurricane Katrina struck the base, rising waters swallowed cars parked along streets.  The base and the 6,000 sheltered military students, permanent party, civilians and their families survived the Category 4 hurricane with no casualties.  The initial damage was catastrophic to base infrastructure.  The base is currently in the assessment and recovery stage.  (U.S. Air Force photo)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 15 of 15

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- As Hurricane Katrina struck the base, rising waters swallowed cars parked along streets. The base and the 6,000 sheltered military students, permanent party, civilians and their families survived the Category 4 hurricane with no casualties. The initial damage was catastrophic to base infrastructure. The base is currently in the assessment and recovery stage. (U.S. Air Force photo)

SAN ANTONIO (AFPN) -- The fifth tropical depression of the year is gathering force in the Caribbean Sea and making a beeline for the Gulf of Mexico. It might, or might not, turn into a hurricane.

Either way, there is no doubt Airmen at bases along the Gulf Coast are wondering if they will soon have to hunker down and weather another big storm.

Fresh in their minds are the terrifying memories of what they faced during and after Hurricane Katrina tried to sweep the Gulf Coast off the American mainland.

Will they soon have to relive the Katrina nightmare? This is a question that comes too soon, less than a year after Katrina became the benchmark by which Americans would gauge future hurricanes.

The storm almost erased New Orleans off the map. And as the massive storm moved across the region, it almost put Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., out of business. Nearby, the storm took a heavy toll in Biloxi.

At Keesler, which suffered nearly $1 billion in damages, the wing commander summed up the attitude of all the people at his base, and across the Gulf Coast, who survived the storm.

"Don't count us out," said Brig. Gen. William T. Lord, then the 81st Training Wing commander.

So when the storm moved on to wreak havoc across other parts of the country, the U.S. military mobilized to help like they had never done before. After climbing out of their shelters Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen donned their uniforms, got out their gear and started to recover and support of the hundreds of thousands of people Katrina affected.

The general, who lost everything he owned but two cars and some suitcases full of clothes, said the military had never faced such a domestic dilemma. Led by U.S. Northern Command, the military's mission became "the rescue of Mississippi and Louisiana," he said.

Soon the air above New Orleans, the rest of Louisiana and Mississippi was abuzz with military helicopters on search and rescue missions. Airmen plucked people off roofs and flew them to safety. They continued their search and rescue for days.

Higher overhead, U-2 reconnaissance aircraft took the photos that showed just how devastating Katrina was. The images enabled first responders to concentrate their efforts in the most damaged areas.

But that wasn't all the Airmen did. Across the region, Airmen went to work to help their neighbors. Red Horse engineers worked around the clock to clear tons of debris, first at Keesler, and then in Biloxi. And even before they had fully assessed how bad Katrina had struck them, Airmen went outside the base to bring food and water to their neighbors.

Air Force transports flew people from flooded New Orleans to a host of cities around the country. At San Antonio, for example, medics, a hot meal and a shower and a clean and dry place to stay awaited them.

Ralph Price Sr. arrived at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The family lost everything to Katrina and he said the Airmen at Lackland were the best thing that happened to his family since the storm hit. In the confusion of New Orleans, and in the rush to get out as soon as possible, the family nearly split up. Conditions in New Orleans were like in a concentration camp, he said.

But the welcome he got from the Airmen at Lackland gave him hope.

"You don't know how happy we are to be here," he said.

At bases not affected by the storm, Airmen helped the Federal Emergency Management Agency set up staging areas to get their equipment close to the ravaged area. And Air Force helicopters and transports ferried agency assessment teams to affected regions.

Air Force health care providers went door to door helping people near Biloxi. And they helped reestablish the medical infrastructure washed away by Katrina. In Gulfport, Miss., Keesler medics helped at the local hospital.

Keith Watters was a patient. When Katrina wiped out his home, he also lost all his medications. He suffered five days in pain until he could get to the Gulfport facility. He could not say enough about the Airmen who attended him.

"The Air Force people on the Gulf Coast did provide a lot for the people here," he said. "They don't care about the red tape -- they just help you."

As the 2006 hurricane season starts to hit full speed, the Gulf Coast waits for the next storm to hit. Like after Katrina, they can count on Airmen to be there if they need help again.

Engage

Facebook Twitter
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: Infinitely shareable, fully exportable — this is how these sharp Airmen described AERONet during a live demo at #CONJE
.@AFRL #Airmen help to create a lighter, thinner armor, enabling the #warfighter to fulfill the mission.… https://t.co/RBxlg1RRYP
RT @AFSpace: In order to combat rising threats in the space domain, the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Directorate at HQ, AF…
RT @HQUSAFEPA: #TuesdayThoughts - U.S. Air Force representing at this year's Paris Air Show @salondubourget! NATO allies and partners sit s…
#AirForce aims to revamp acquisition course, educating acquirers about weapon systems and how they are used in comb… https://t.co/y2WfRklotJ
Kudos and congratulations to this outstanding #Airman. https://t.co/YH8hk3OyKc
RT @ActingSecAF: Fanstastic first day @salondubourget with iconic @NASA astronauts like @WordenAlfred & @AstroHague! And great discussion…
Herculean Heights: Resilient leader at Youngstown reaches 10,000 hrs milestone. @910AW @USAFReserve #USAFhttps://t.co/dNmxl0nrmu
.@124FighterWing #pilot executes an austere landing at the Freedom Landing Strip, #NationalTrainingCenterhttps://t.co/HQ6xjGohcs
#USAF BMT is changing this #summer! #Airmen will spend more time on weapons familiarization, along w/ additions of… https://t.co/wlHwtx7XWO
#USAF #Airmen continues the process of making his childhood dream of playing professional football come true. https://t.co/iAl70c8GXS
The opening of Cargo City successfully transitions operations from the #USAF & Coalition Abdullah Al-Mubarak Air Ba… https://t.co/K73PkhjpNY
RT @AirmanMagazine: It started as a dare between two pilots... The @usairforce Hurricane Hunters save lives by flying through hurricanes t…
RT @ActingSecAF: Thanks to this crew for making the right call and saving the life of a fellow service member. https://t.co/cP4KCIQFgD
The Space Test Program-2 will provide the #USAF with insight into the SpaceX booster recovery and refurbishing proc… https://t.co/qYhlj7Je9V
RT @ActingSecAF: Happy birthday @USArmy. 244 years of defending our nation. @SecArmy https://t.co/AfMoPxwbd8
RT @DeptofDefense: “They’re really noisy, but I love them.” This @USAirForce F-15 Eagle crew chief from the @142ndFW shares his motivation…