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Awaiting Orders

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I understand the logistical nightmares involved, but it’s hard not to share the frustration of those Guards members, and wonder who’s in charge down there, when you read stories like this.

More than 2,500 Pennsylvania National Guards troops have been sitting at the former England Air Force Base in Alexandria, Louisiana, for two days, doing nothing. They’re still waiting for someone to tell them where to go and how to help.

“All the soldiers were saying ‘Let’s go,'” said Lt. Col. Jerry Miller, a battalion commander. “The soldiers really want to do something.”

Guardsmen from Pennsylvania rode more than 1,200 miles in Humvees, sleeping in truck stop parking lots, to get to Alexandria – only to find they had no mission yet. On Wednesday, their second day of inactivity, they did maintenance on their vehicles and got vaccinated.

The contingent from Pennsylvania comes from about one-third of the state’s Guard armories, has 500 vehicles, and is self-sustaining with the capability to purify its own water and maintain vehicles. The soldiers packed bulletproof vests, ammunition and weapons.

It is the largest state activation of Pennsylvania Guard troops since Hurricane Agnes in 1972.

Several sleeper buses full of Pennsylvania troops did get close to the devastation. They arrived at the airfield in St. Tammany Parish on the outskirts of New Orleans on Tuesday morning after 24 hours on the road; they unpacked, only to be told to load the buses back up and head to Alexandria four hours away because Marines and members of the Alabama National Guard were already in the parish.

Col. Joel Wierenga did not hide his frustration when he told his officers the news, and also informed them they might eventually be split up to provide security to utility crews.