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Louisiana guardsmen rescue thousands in floods

Soldiers help a flood victim from a rescue boat in Ponchatoula, La., March 13, 2016. The soldiers are assigned to the Louisiana National Guard’s 2225th Multi-Role Bridge Company, 205th Engineer Battalion. Louisiana National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Rebekah Malone

Soldiers help a man out of the bridge erection boat they used to check on residents who could not get out of their homes, in Ponchatoula, La., March 13, 2016. The Soldiers are assigned to the Louisiana National Guard’s 2225th Multi-Role Bridge Company, 205th Engineer Battalion. The current of the river, which had overcome its banks and flooded the road, was too strong for regular boat motors to battle. (Louisiana National Guard photo/1st Lt. Rebekah Malone)

An Airman throws a sandbag to his partner during the construction of protective flood barriers over the Red Chute Bayou levee in Bossier City, La., March 10, 2016. The Airmen are assigned to the 2nd Logistics Readiness Squadron. (Air Force photo/Senior Airman Mozer Da Cunha)

An Airman throws a sandbag to his partner during the construction of protective flood barriers over the Red Chute Bayou levee in Bossier City, La., March 10, 2016. The Airmen are assigned to the 2nd Logistics Readiness Squadron. (Air Force photo/Senior Airman Mozer Da Cunha)

Sgt. Jason C. Carroll, an electronic warfare specialist with the Louisiana National Guard's 528th Engineer Battalion, 225th Engineer Brigade, carries a young resident through flooded streets in Monroe, La., March 10, 2016. The 528th EN BN used light medium tactical vehicles in cooperation with the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office to navigate through high waters in order to assist the residents who wished to leave. (U.S. Army National Guard photo/Spc. Tarell J. Bilbo)

Sgt. Jason C. Carroll, an electronic warfare specialist with the Louisiana National Guard's 528th Engineer Battalion, 225th Engineer Brigade, carries a young resident through flooded streets in Monroe, La., March 10, 2016. The 528th EN BN used light medium tactical vehicles in cooperation with the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office to navigate through high waters in order to assist the residents who wished to leave. (U.S. Army National Guard photo/Spc. Tarell J. Bilbo)

Louisiana Army National Guardsmen 2nd Lt. William Hall and Cpl. Kurt Humpreys, of the 2nd Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment, conduct door-to-door searches in Pecan Estates in Bossier City, La., March 10, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. Jerry W. Rushing)

Louisiana Army National Guardsmen 2nd Lt. William Hall and Cpl. Kurt Humpreys, of the 2nd Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment, conduct door-to-door searches in Pecan Estates in Bossier City, La., March 10, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. Jerry W. Rushing)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Louisiana National Guardsmen have rescued more than 4,000 people in the floods that have inundated the state over the past week, a state Guard spokesman said.

About 1,200 Louisiana Army and Air National Guard members have been mobilized and are working with local partners to support the mission, said Air Force Col. Pete Schneider, the state public affairs officer for the Louisiana National Guard.

Schneider, who spoke March 14 in a phone interview from New Orleans, said floodwaters following heavy rains have inundated neighborhoods, washed over roads and trapped residents. Soldiers and Airmen are searching neighborhoods and going door to door to rescue people, he said.

Working in their own neighborhoods

"A lot of these guardsmen are doing lifesaving in their own neighborhoods, so they're serving in the communities where they live," he said. "We are in every part of the state. We're actually in 33 parishes in the state."

The guardsmen, who have been working around the clock since last week, are performing search and rescue operations using almost every piece of equipment they have, including boats, trucks, Humvees and helicopters, the colonel said.

Boat crews and aircrews have rescued people stranded around dangerous, quickly moving floodwaters, he added.

At last tally, Schneider said, Louisiana guardsmen had rescued 4,255 people and 354 pets and had issued nearly 72,000 bottles of water, more than 1 million sandbags, 700 cots, and hundreds of packaged meals.

After the waters recede, Schneider said, the National Guard will support recovery efforts, a mission that could last for months.

In addition to fighting the nation's wars, guardsmen are proud to serve and protect their state and communities, the colonel said. "They're able to make an immediate difference by saving lives (and) protecting property," he said. "If you ask them, this is why they joined."

Pentagon kudos

At the Pentagon on March 14, a Defense Department spokesman commended the efforts of the men and women of the Louisiana National Guard.

"This is just another example of the outstanding efforts of our National Guard to help the people of their state in their greatest time of need," Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said.

President Barack Obama has declared that a major disaster exists in Louisiana, and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.

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