Myrtle Grove levees reinforced from the air

Military aircraft drop sandbags to prevent Lake Hermitage from flooding area


By Staff Sgt. Kristi Moon

159th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


MYRTLE GROVE, La. - As the levees protecting Lake Hermitage started leaking from the after effects of Hurricane Gustav; the orchards, homes, cattle and private properties in that area were in jeopardy.


Louisiana Highway 23, about 15 miles south of Belle Chasse, La., then became the staging area for a massive joint operation between several military units, Plaquemines Parish and civilian contractors.


As efforts to save the area from flooding were underway, a large stretch of the southbound highway was lined with 5,000-pound sandbags.  


Air Traffic Controllers from the Louisiana National Guard's 122nd Air Support Operations Squadron radioed to Iowa and Ohio National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters and instructed them where to deliver the sandbags.


Civilian contractors hooked the bags to the helicopters and then took off.  Another set of air traffic controllers positioned on the levee, directed the approaching pilots to the exact drop location for their heavy loads. Each drop consisted of three to four sandbags.


Chief Warrant Officer Brian West with the Ohio National Guard, had been 'slinging' sandbags since Wednesday. "We do sling loads all the time but this is my first sandbag mission," he said.


Several sandbag drops into the mission the crews had to refuel, which is where the 159th Fighter Wing's Fuel Management Flight assisted with the Forward Air Refueling Point (FARP).


Maj. Jim "Roper" Worley, of the 159th Fighter Wing and mission commander for the FARP, said working together was key.  "There were a lot of different agencies working together for the first time to save this area and it's a fairly seamless operation."