By Brig. Gen. Rowayne A. Schatz, Jr.
314th Airlift Wing commander
Three years ago, Hurricane Katrina, the third strongest hurricane to make landfall in the United States, battered the gulf coast mercilessly until 1,800 casualties and $81 billion of damage were left in its wake. In the end, the tragedy brought about major changes in the way our country responds to national emergencies.
Fast forwarding to this past week, we saw another potentially catastrophic hurricane tearing through the Caribbean on course to ravage an area devastated by a similar storm only three years ago. Mandatory evacuations took place to keep people out of harm’s way, the levees were redesigned and the National Guard was activated with ample preparation to prevent Hurricane Gustav from becoming Hurricane Katrina part two.
The results? As of Wednesday, the levee system held strong and held millions of gallons of water at bay, nearly 2 million Louisianans were evacuated, only six deaths were reported due to accidents with falling debris; none were flooding related. In the aftermath of tragedy, our nation learned how to improve. Not all tragedies can be avoided, but when we learn from our mistakes and turn our weaknesses into strengths, we empower ourselves to turn tragedy into triumph.
Our Airmen from Team Little Rock played a key role in our nation’s preparation for Hurricane Gustav’s arrival. We were the main air mobility hub for all Air Force support to civil authorities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Over the Labor Day weekend we flew nine C-130 missions moving over 170 passengers and hosted six C-17s and over 250 additional Airmen from around the country supporting the movement of patients and evacuees out of Hurricane Gustav’s path.
Kim and I will be attending the senior NCO induction banquet tonight in Little Rock to celebrate a significant event in the lives of our senior enlisted Airmen. They attended a three-day seminar this week to refresh and refill their leadership tool kit. Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Brinkley, our own 314th Airlift Wing Command Chief, will be the guest speaker. Please take the opportunity to congratulate any inductees you may know. They are the future enlisted leaders of our Air Force!
The Combined Federal Campaign will be starting next week and will give us a chance to give back a portion of the blessings that we’ve been given. There are countless charities within the CFC that can take donations and it’s important that we, as Airmen, setthe standard for giving to all these great causes. Contact your flight CFC representative with any questions you have about donating. Our goals are 100 percent contact and 50 percent participation. I encourage everyone to give a little -- if everyone on base just gave $1 a month we could make a huge positive impact!
We continue to be postured to support our neighbors on the Carolina coast as Hurricane Hanna approaches this weekend. You continue to show our Air Force leadership why Team Little Rock is the “go to” team when the nation needs Combat Airlift, whether flying combat sorties in Iraq or helping our neighbors avoid a storm. We are the nation’s 911 force. I’m so proud to serve alongside such a great team of professional Airmen!