Local guardsman assists Hurricane Gustav victims

Freedom New Mexico

As part of his mission in the New Mexico National Guard, Sgt. 1st Class Terry Stevens of Portales is in Louisiana with 400 other New Mexico guardsmen deployed to regions affected by Hurricane Gustav.

The Category 2 storm made landfall Sept. 1, causing flooding and wind damage to homes in the state, according to Stevens.

While areas such as Alexandria, La. — where the Clovis and Portales guardsmen are based — have regained electricity and running water, Stevens said there are still parts of the state without utilities.

“The further south you go, closer to the coast, the more damage (there is). Some of the people were expected to be without electricity for upwards of eight to 10 weeks, and that means no running water ‘cause they have no power in their municipalities whatsoever,” said Stevens, who has been with the National Guard for 16 years.

Stevens said about 40 national guardsmen from Portales and Clovis are presently providing security and distributing supplies to hurricane-struck areas, including Baton Rouge and Shreveport.

“We have everything from transportation assets, to infantry soldiers to help with patrols and guarding of high-opportunity targets and areas that are without electricity, down to running distribution point where they distribute (Meals Ready to Eat packages) and water and even food stamps to the people that are in need,” he said.

He said guardsmen have trained for disaster relief as part of their mission. He said eastern New Mexico guardsmen served in Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans causing the levees to break.

Stevens, the full-time readiness noncommissioned officer for the Clovis National Guard, said he expects his unit to stay in the hurricane-battered state until the middle of the month.

“There’s people from Nebraska, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Ohio,” he said. “It’s a big, big effort and we do our little slice of what needs to be done.”