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D.C. Guard increases presence in Big Easy

- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2005

NEW ORLEANS -- Fifty-two members of the 104th Company of the D.C. National Guard yesterday morning left their home base for the flooded-out city of New Orleans, where they joined several hundred other D.C. Guardsmen who deployed here last week.

The company, which specializes in maintenance, will be primarily responsible for supporting the D.C. National Guard's 547th Transportation Company already on the ground here.

So far, more than 300 D.C. Guardsmen have been deployed to the Gulf Coast. The D.C. National Guard has an estimated 2,300 members.

The D.C. National Guard will be deployed for up to 179 days, officials said. The D.C. National Guard was initially sent on a volunteer basis for 10 days.

The length of deployment for D.C. Guardsmen was extended last week when the need for security and a military presence increased due to rioting, looting and violence throughout New Orleans.

A long deployment will be particularly hard on the 104th Company, said Lt. Roy Kirk, the company's commander. Most of its members recently returned to the District from a two-year deployment to Fort Dix, N.J., where they worked as support for troops deployed in Iraq.

"They were just starting to get their lives back together, start school, stuff like that," Lt. Kirk said. "We had to have the students communicate right away with the enrollment office so they wouldn't lose their [school] application fees."

The guardsmen landed early yesterday afternoon at the naval air station in Belle Chasse, La., which is about 10 miles southeast of New Orleans. There, they met up with thousands of guardsmen from other states who have been deployed to the devastated parts of the Gulf Coast over the past week.

The company's transport plane, a C-130 nicknamed Nashville, was the first military plane to land in New Orleans after Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast.

Its crew of six Tennessee Air National Guardsmen, who volunteered for deployment, has been flying daily transportation missions for the past week to help in the relief effort.

Another group of D.C. Guardsmen was expected to leave for New Orleans today.