MS National Guard Ready For Hurricane Season

The Mississippi National Guard says it'll be ready if a major hurricane hits our state. On day four of a six day training exercise in Gulfport, guardsmen were making sure they had the tools they'd need to help Mississippians in need.

National guardsmen must learn four different communication systems that will be available to them in a hurricane. After communication failed in Katrina, military officials say it was a struggle to find out where they were needed most.

Col. Larry Harrington is the commander for the Engineering Task Force. He held that same position during Hurricane Katrina.

"Our biggest challenge was to do the assessments and figure out where we needed to mass these engineers to provide the best support," Harrington said.

Food distribution. Running check points. Clearing roads. Restoring order. Major General Harold Cross told his commanders that guardsmen must be prepared to take on all these roles and more.

"They know how to deal with crisis situations," said Major Gen. Cross. "They know how to improvise. They know how to use ingenuity."

Major General Cross says because of the war on terror 5,000 guardsmen were able to immediately responded in Katrina, far less than what was needed. This year 9,000 guardsmen stand ready.

"We also stand postured not to look at Katrina as the high water mark of what could happen to us," said Major Gen. Cross. "We are planning for hurricanes bigger than Katrina or other natural disasters or other man made disasters in terrorism so we're able to respond to a multiplicity of things and not focus on one type of disaster and that's hurricanes."

Guardsmen say their role isn't to take over but to act as a helper for local governments and for fellow Mississippians in need.

"They see the uniform," said Col. Harrington. "They have confidence in these soldiers and they know together we can get through this."

Major General Harold Cross says two days before landfall 1,200 hundred troops will take shelter in the three coastal counties so they can respond immediately after a major storm.