On August 29, 2021, 16 years after Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ida blew ashore. Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds measuring 150 miles per hour. She became the second-most damaging and destructive hurricane to make landfall in Louisiana after Katrina.
In anticipation of Ida, the Louisiana National Guard activated 100% of its available members. High-water vehicles, rescue boats, and helicopters were staged to support search and rescue, supply distribution, and route clearance missions. By August 31, the LANG rescued 359 people and 55 pets stranded in the aftermath of the storm. After Ida swept through, the LANG remained active in relief efforts.
The 225th Engineer Brigade typically conducts mobility, counter-mobility, survivability, and civil engineering support missions. In the wake of Hurricane Ida, the 225th instead conducted operations like flood diversion, vehicle and boat search and rescue, logistics, and waterway hazard recovery. “When a storm has passed, we need to get on the ground immediately to assess and clear routes for emergency access and for power companies to start working,” 225th commander Col. Greg St. Romain told the LANG. “We’re doing everything from route clearance to debris clean up.”
The Entergy Corporation, one of the largest electricity suppliers in the region, reported that Ida took out more poles than Hurricanes Katrina, Ike, Delta, and Laura combined. As a result, more than one million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi were left without power.
Although the guardsmen of the 225th train to operate in combat environments, Hurricane Ida presented them with unique challenges. Electrical equipment was severely damaged, flooding heavily restricted mobility, and bridges were rendered impassable by downed trees and power lines. Still, the 225th drove on to complete their mission. “Working in the 225th during Hurricane Ida recovery has been quite the experience, especially after coming off of a deployment,” Spc. Javacia Blunt said to the LANG. “It was an awesome experience to be able to work with the local officials to assist them on the road to recovery. Protecting what matters is what matters to me most.”
The 225th was instrumental in setting the conditions for recovery operations after Hurricane Ida. Before contractors, emergency services, and even other military units could reach the affected areas to provide aid, the 225th cleared mud, trees, and other debris from over 2,900 miles of road. Additionally, the guardsmen removed over 50,000 cubic yards of debris from municipal buildings.
Under the 225th Engineer Brigade is the 2225th Multi-Role Bridge Company. The unit is uniquely trained to deploy the Improved Ribbon Bridge, a portable floating bridge that enables military convoys to cross otherwise impassable waterways. In 2010, the 2225th deployed the IRB during the emergency response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Following Ida, the IRB was deployed again to replace the only bridge that connects to the Barataria community in Jean Lafitte, Louisiana. The original bridge was destroyed by collisions with two shrimp boats during the hurricane.
“With the main bridge out in Lafitte, we have an isolated community of 400 people with no access to emergency services,” 2225th commander Cpt. Kyle Schmidt told the LANG. “It was the beginning of a bad situation, and it became critical to be able to get emergency services over to the other side.” During the construction of the temporary bridge, the company used sections of the IRB to ferry emergency vehicles to and from the isolated community. Following its completion, more than 10,000 vehicles used the IRB.
The guardsmen of the 225th Engineer Brigade and the rest of the LANG mobilized at a moment’s notice to serve their community. Their motivation to complete their mission is augmented by the personal stake that they have in the recovery operations. When their neighbors called for help, they were ready, and they were there.