The Long Trip To Recovery

1 decade 5 years 1 week ago Sunday, September 18 2005 Sep 18, 2005 Sunday, September 18, 2005 8:51:47 PM CDT September 18, 2005 in News
Two members of the KOMU reporting staff spent a week traveling with the 128th Field Artillery Battery of the Missouri National Guard.

They saw a lot while in New Orleans, everything from devastation to desperation.  But first, it took a lot just getting to New Orleans.

"We're ready to go, we've got about all the equipment we can take with us, the men are really looking forward to going down there and helping out," explained Sgt. Michael Mayo of the 128th Field Artillery Battery.

The 128th had their work cut out for them long before they even step foot out the door.  Everything from checking the radio,(radio nats) to getting one last hot meal.

Mayo explains how the rush to leave was very sudden: "This came up all of the sudden that we had to go, so the state is jumping through hoops trying to get us down there as quick as possible."

But the long road south is anything but quick.

"What would normally take someone a 2 hour trip takes us about 3 or 4 hour trip, like I say, we've been driving 8 hours and we're probably gonna be driving another 8 hour more," explained Specialist Roby Hopkins.

Part of the reason the trip takes so long is the vehicles travel only 50-miles per hour.  It takes an hour to fill up the 50-gallon plus tanks for all 18-vehicles in the convoy.

And with gas prices sky high, the cost adds up.  The trip down I-55 to southern louisiana has a price tag of nearly $2,000.  And puts a strain on gas station owners.

"I'm thinking my last drop is going to a good cause, those people need diesel to get down there and they need fuel to get help to the people and i'm glad that i have some left for them," explained Ala Tiat who owns the gas station.

With no air conditioning and temperatures near 100 degrees, soldiers say riding in the FMTV's is like riding in a hot tin can.

Despite hunger, heat and slow speed, soldiers say the trip is rewarding.

"You know the money's great, but helping people in the time of need is real imortant...Just to do good i think is in everyone's heart," Sergeant Jude Florek said.  "You know it's fun, we get to see a part of the country we've never seen before and as we're driving you know people will honk and wave at us, makes us feel good."

Troops remain positive even though they're unsure where the road will lead.

"Whatever our mission is, whatever they tell us to do, we're 100 percent behind it and we're going to take care of it and make sure everybody gets back home," said Mayo.  "Looks like it's kind of crazy down there, hopefully we'll be able to get down there and help out."

After more than 13-hours on the road, troops finally get to rest up before lacing them up again for another long day.  The days on the road were long, but that was just the beginning.  They'd get even longer once the real mission began.

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