As National Guard and Coast Guard Respond to Hurricane Laura, the USO Is By Their Side

By Sandi Gohn

An image from a damage survey flight after Hurricane Laura on Aug. 27, 2020. | Photo credit DVIDS/Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Paige Hause

Editor’s Note: The last update to this story was on September 9, 2020, at 11:00 a.m.

As the Gulf Coast sifts through the damage caused by Hurricane Laura and the military assists in the hurricane relief effort, the USO is by their side to provide connectivity, refreshments and a touch of home, just like we have in hurricane seasons before.

National Guard and Coast Guard Activate for Hurricane Laura Response

Hurricane Laura made landfall in western Louisiana, about 35 miles east of the Texas border, early in the morning on Aug. 27 as a Category 4 storm. Laura caused widespread damage and is now being considered one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the U.S. in recent history.

National Guard members in Southwest Louisiana on Aug. 27, 2020 after Hurricane Laura. | Photo credit DVIDS/Army Staff Sgt. Josiah Pugh

Shortly after the storm passed on Aug. 31, more than 6,200 Louisiana National Guard members were supporting the response to Hurricane Laura by providing logistical support, distributing supplies and clearing roads and bridges.

According to the Louisiana National Guard, they had 236 high water vehicles, 76 boats and 17 helicopters ready to provide support to the community, in addition to over a dozen engineering teams trained to help move debris and clear roads.

As of September 5, the Louisiana National Guard has helped evacuate more than 358 people and 29 pets from affected areas, in addition to distributing 4,393,539 liters of water, 3,286,056 military rations (MREs) and 139,082 tarps to the people of Louisiana.

Photo credit DVIDS/Army Staff Sgt. Josiah Pugh

Members of the National Guard assist those impacted by Hurricane Laura.

Furthermore, local Coast Guard teams have been playing an active role in the recovery effort.

Before the storm made landfall, over 1,000 members of the Texas National Guard were also standing at the ready to provide aerial, search and rescue, and logistical support if needed. According to the Texas Guard, over 20 aerial units, including Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters and C-130 planes, were ready to respond, in addition to 117 high water vehicles. The Alabama National Guard also provided support and sent four Black Hawk helicopters to Louisiana.

USO Moves to Support in the Wake of Hurricane Laura

As National Guard and Coast Guard members responded to Hurricane Laura, the USO coordinated with the military to provide support to service members working in the wake of the storm. As of Sept. 8, the USO had served over 6,300 members of the military who were activated in response to Hurricane Laura.

A Mobile USO vehicle provides respite for service members helping in the clean up effort for Hurricane Laura on Sept. 1, 2020.
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A Mobile USO vehicle provides respite for service members helping in the clean up effort for Hurricane Laura on Sept. 1, 2020.

Service members stock up on their snacks before heading back to help in the Hurricane Laura recovery effort.
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Service members stock up on their snacks before heading back to help in the Hurricane Laura recovery effort.

Service members stock up on their snacks before heading back to help in the Hurricane Laura recovery effort.
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Service members stock up on their snacks before heading back to help in the Hurricane Laura recovery effort.

Service members play lawn games near a Mobile USO vehicle during a down moment before heading back to help in the Hurricane Laura recovery mission.
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Service members play lawn games near a Mobile USO vehicle during a down moment before heading back to help in the Hurricane Laura recovery mission.

A Mobile USO vehicle provides a place for service members to relax while they help in the response to Hurricane Laura on Sept. 1, 2020.
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A Mobile USO vehicle provides a place for service members to relax while they help in the response to Hurricane Laura on Sept. 1, 2020.

Service members play football near the Mobile USO vehicle during a down moment before heading back to help in the Hurricane Laura recovery mission.
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Service members play football near the Mobile USO vehicle during a down moment before heading back to help in the Hurricane Laura recovery mission.

Service members take a break from assisting in the Hurricane Laura recovery effort and enjoy refreshments courtesy of the USO.
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Service members take a break from assisting in the Hurricane Laura recovery effort and enjoy refreshments courtesy of the USO.

The Mobile USO prepares with help of service members ahead of Hurricane Laura.
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The Mobile USO prepares with help of service members ahead of Hurricane Laura.

The Mobile USO team stocks up on supplies in Fort Hood, Texas ahead of Hurricane Laura.
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The Mobile USO team stocks up on supplies in Fort Hood, Texas ahead of Hurricane Laura.

At the peak of the military’s cleanup effort, the USO had three of its Mobile USO units on the ground with a fourth Mobile USO unit waiting on standby to join the efforts if needed. Together, the three units supported dozens of locations in the clean-up zone.

Since Aug. 30, the Mobile USO units were busy supporting members of the National Guard by providing them with snacks, water and sports drinks to keep them fueled and ready to continue their mission. Mobile USO staff also hosted evening morale events for various units working in the clean-up effort. During these events, service members were able to play games, enjoy refreshments and a take a moment to recharge before heading back to work.

Staff from the USO of North Carolina also traveled to Louisiana to deliver USO Care Packages and other supplies for service members hard at work. Furthermore, USO staffers from brick-and-mortar USO locations along the path of the storm (many of which were already temporarily closed due to COVID-19) helped provide additional support.

As the military’s operations in the region begin to drawdown, the Mobile USO team will continue to provide support as requested before heading on the road to the next mission.

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