Guard Spotlight: Louisiana

Guard Rescues Residents from Rising Waters and Reinforces Levee

MONROE, La. – When excessive rain caused flooding earlier this month, the Louisiana Army National Guard literally put together a concrete plan to protect this community in Tangipahoa Parish. 

Guard members from the 1022nd and 844th engineer companies out of West Monroe, La., worked with the Tensas Levee Basin District to transform a half-mile of hinged concrete slabs that normally serve as a sidewalk along the Ouachita River into a 6-foot-tall levee. 

Louisiana National Guard members assemble emergency levee walls on the banks of the Ouachita River in Monroe, La., on March 13, 2016. Photo by SPC Garrett Dipuma.

“This levee is a modular system that can be put up and put down in a day or two,” said 1LT Sean Place of West Monroe. 

Elsewhere, search, rescue, and recovery of residents stranded by floodwaters dominated the Guard’s efforts to support Tangipahoa Parish emergency operations.

These efforts took on added urgency when parish authorities shut down electricity to many neighborhoods to prevent house fires. Residents who had planned to ride out the flood began to request rescues as their homes heated up and refrigerators stopped humming. 

The Guard’s primary tools for emergency operations were M1078 Light Medium Tactical Vehicles (LMTVs), flat-bottom aluminum boats, Zodiac Mil-Pro inflatable boats and Bridge Erection Boats. Each was employed for maximum effectiveness depending on the requests for support generated by Tangipahoa emergency operations.

The mission’s noncommissioned officer-in-charge, SGT Kenny Devalcourt, had been instructed to survey low-water crossings and bridges. If waters had receded to less than six inches, his team’s instructions were to remove the barricades to permit civilian vehicle passage. 

In certain areas, Devalcourt and his team had to wade the waters – three-across – in front of the LMTV as it forded through crossings and bridges to verify the quality of the road beneath their feet and identify possible sunken obstacles that could impede or damage the high-water truck. 

Besides, as SGT Micah Lonigro explained, “This gets us out of the truck and into the action, and it’s what we’re trained to do.” 

One mission involved rescuing an elderly resident who began to suffer medically after his electricity was shut down. The boats on hand didn’t have the power to cross the strong currents to get to him, so the Guard dispatched two Bridge Erection Boats (BEBs) to accomplish the mission.

BEBs are sturdier and more powerful, making them essential when strong currents make more typical rescue watercraft impractical, said COL Rodney Painting, commander of the 225th Engineer Brigade in Alexandria.

Parish President Robby Miller expressed his gratitude for the Guard’s help.

“We couldn’t have done what we’ve done without the Louisiana National Guard’s work. Your support helped make our search and rescues efforts successful in that we suffered no casualties or injuries. I know things might have turned out differently if the Louisiana Guard hadn’t come through.”

If you have what it takes to come through for your community during a crisis, contact a recruiter today and check out our job board for Guard careers in fields like engineering and more.

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March’s Hot Job is … 42A Human Resources Specialist

Each month throughout 2016, On Your Guard is spotlighting a “hot job.” What defines these featured jobs as “hot”? One all-important benchmark: the number of times people searched for it on the National Guard jobs board. Here’s what’s hot this month.

If you like working with people and have a knack for keeping records, you might want to consider a career as a 42A Human Resources Specialist in the Army National Guard.

This particular Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is charged with maintaining and updating personnel records; coordinating requests for evaluations; and handling requests for ID cards, Soldier tags, and leaves of absence. That’s in addition to performing general office tasks like filing and ordering supplies.

For SFC Heather Brown of the North Dakota National Guard, the MOS was a natural fit because she had studied human resources and business management in college before joining the Guard after the Sept. 11 attacks. 

What she likes about her job is “taking care of the Soldiers, making sure their stuff is correct,” and by “stuff” she means paperwork, especially because she in-processes Soldiers who are brand new to the National Guard.

“We do everything from making sure we have emergency points-of-contact to making sure their income tax forms are correct to getting them set up with health insurance and life insurance, and making sure their ID card is good to go. …”

The paperwork can be time consuming and highly detailed, but SFC Brown, who’s been a 42A for the last 11 years, appreciates the importance of accuracy.

“It would be very frustrating if somebody didn’t get something that they deserved because I didn’t do my job and have their paperwork correct.”

Two of the top attributes a Human Resources Specialist should possess, according to SFC Brown, are good customer service etiquette and patience, and, because she deals with new recruits, compassion is another must have. 

“Some people, they’re nervous because they’re new recruits … they’re scared but they want to ask questions.”

One of the rewards of her career is out-processing those same recruits after training to send them on their way to their Units.

“Sometimes it’s a different Soldier. It’s an amazing thing to see. They’ve built the confidence up.”

“I love what I do,” says SFC Brown. “It’s rewarding to see that you’re helping somebody.”

While Guard service is typically part-time, SFC Brown works full-time with the Guard, doing human resources work during the week. It’s an MOS that translates directly to a civilian career, as almost every employer needs experienced people who can handle employee relations, payroll, and records keeping.

For more information about what a 42A does, check out this video, and then read more about the training you’ll need.

This MOS requires almost nine weeks of advanced individual training (AIT) where you’ll learn the ins and outs of being a Human Resources Specialist. The instruction takes place at Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C.

For Soldiers who are interested in additional training, the Guard also offers great education benefits like tuition assistance for college.

If you think you have what it takes to be a Human Resources Specialist with the Army National Guard, visit our job board and contact a recruiter today.

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Women Break the Last Barrier on the Battlefield

In honor of Women’s History Month, On Your Guard takes a look back at women’s roles in protecting and defending their country, and how they will change in 2016.

As far back as the Revolutionary War, women have served alongside the American military working on the battlefield as nurses, cooks, water bearers, and laundresses. Some women went so far as to disguise themselves as men so they could serve as Soldiers in the Civil War. And as early as the Spanish-American War in 1898, female nurses served Army hospitals in and outside the country as far away as The Philippines and Guam.

By the 1940s, as World War II raged, more than 400,000 American women were serving their country in nearly every non-combat job. Fifty years later, women were serving on combat ships and flying fighter jets, but continued to face barriers that kept them out of the running to serve in direct ground combat roles – that is, until this year.

Department of Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently announced that after experimenting with and studying the matter for the last three years, all jobs in every branch of the military would be open to women who meet the qualifications for these positions beginning this year.

The announcement is undoubtedly welcomed by SSG Sonia Buchanan, whom On Your Guard interviewed last year. SSG Buchanan, the first woman to serve in her regiment in the Wisconsin Army National Guard, was looking forward to pursuing 19D Cavalry Scout as her newest military occupational specialty (MOS) as soon as it opened to women. This MOS is referred to as the eyes and ears of the Army, responsible for reconnaissance work on the battlefield.

2LT Tracci Dorgan-Bandy, whom On Your Guard spoke with last week, is the first female artillery officer in the South Carolina National Guard. Advising women who want to pursue combat positions to be fully aware of the physical and mental requirements of the job, she echoed some of the statements made by Secretary Carter, who said “… for a variety of reasons, equal opportunity likely will not mean equal participation by men and women in all specialties. There must be no quotas or perception thereof. 

As SSG Buchanan predicted last year, men and women will be given equal consideration when it comes to jobs, but not everyone is suited for a combat role.

“For the females who are physically strong and mentally capable, I would encourage anybody anytime to go for it and keep pushing the boundaries,” she says. “It’s only because women in the past have kept pushing and pushing for integration that now it is happening.”

For more on how women have been immersing themselves into combat-oriented jobs over the last few years, see this video from the Department of Defense. 

Some of the National Guard MOSs that will be open to women this year for the first time include those in infantry, ground defense, and Special Forces. Explore these careers and more on our job board, and contact a recruiter today. As of 2016, the opportunities are truly limitless.

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