- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 7, 2005

They call him “the ragin’ Cajun.”

With the federal response to Katrina in high gear, the face of the effort is a boisterous, cigar-chomping, three-star general who is regaining the respect of exhausted local authorities.

Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore, head of the 1st U.S. Army in Fort Gillem, Ga., has a long resume of leading troops in war and in response to natural disasters. Now, he is shouting commands and setting things straight in New Orleans.

Since he took charge of National Guard units pouring into the Gulf Coast region from several states, the evacuation of tens of thousands of stranded victims has been rapid, and order has been restored where looting and chaos once ruled.

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin, who slammed the Bush administration last week over what he called a slow-footed federal response, has expressed relief and praise for the arrival of Gen. Honore.

“I give the president some credit on this; he sent one John Wayne dude down here that can get some stuff done,” Mr. Nagin said in a local radio interview this week in New Orleans. “He came off the doggone chopper, and he started cussing, and people started moving.”

Kim S. Waldron, a spokeswoman for U.S. Army Forces Command, said the general is “quite a character.”

“We also call him the ‘ragin’ Cajun,’” Miss Waldron said of Gen. Honore, who hails from Lakeland, La., just north of Baton Rouge.

The disaster touched close to home for Gen. Honore, whose daughter lives in New Orleans, and whose son reportedly is serving in Iraq with the Louisiana National Guard.

A veteran of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the general has led troops in Korea and Germany over the past 34 years.

After arriving in New Orleans, Gen. Honore cut to the heart of the matter, announcing on CNN that families still stranded in the city were frustrated.

“I would be, too,” he said. “I get frustrated at the cash register counter when the paper runs out.”

The general has taken a three-pronged approach: Speed the recovery, put a humanitarian face on the effort and conduct public damage control for federal agencies under heavy fire from the press.

As military trucks streamed into New Orleans at week’s end, hurricane victims and some national press crews noticed soldiers riding atop their vehicles with guns drawn.

“Put those [expletive] weapons down,” Gen. Honore screamed, as reported by the Associated Press. The press agency also said he reminded soldiers, and sometimes local police, that they were “not in Iraq.”

He also is throwing cold water on heated questions of the national press.

“That’s B.S. It’s B.S.,” Gen. Honore shouted at a pack of reporters Monday when they questioned whether red tape was hampering relief efforts.

“I can tell you that is B.S. We have got 300 helicopters and some of the finest EMS workers in the world down here,” he said. “There is no red tape.”

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