After storm, Md. Guard heads to Miss. `to help people, to be involved'

130 troops will provide security, logistical support

Katrina's Wake

September 01, 2005|By Jonathan Pitts | Jonathan Pitts,SUN STAFF

He didn't know what, exactly, he'd be doing for the next couple of weeks - or would it be a month? - but Kim Dixon didn't seem to mind. The Elkridge native has been watching the television reports for two days now, and all he knows is that he is needed.

"It's catastrophic down there" in Mississippi, said Dixon, a youth counselor in civilian life and a specialist in the Maryland Army National Guard. "I could end up doing manual labor, piling up sandbags, bringing people water. But this is what I'm in it for - to help people, to be involved."

Dixon, 43, a father of five, will carry out those and other duties as part of an emergency detail of 130 members of the guard dispatched in response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. They'll spend 10 to 30 days providing security and logistical support for Mississippi's National Guard.

The detachment represents Maryland's first contribution to the contingent of 10,000 National Guard troops expected to converge on the area from around the United States as soon as they can be deployed.

Troops from one state's National Guard rarely go to another state for noncombat duty, but the Maryland detachment was sent under the provision of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, an agreement among 49 states to provide resources to one another in the event of a disaster.

One hundred of the men and women are members of the Maryland National Guard's 115th Military Police Battalion, which, among other missions, helped secure the Pentagon crash site after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has provided security for military operations in Iraq. The rest are from the Maryland Air National Guard's 175th Wing.

"These are spirited soldiers and airmen," said Maj. Gen. Bruce F. Tuxill, the Maryland National Guard's commanding officer, who was at Warfield Air National Guard Base in Middle River yesterday to send the units on their mission. "They couldn't be better trained for this task."

As two C-130 aircraft waited outside, he thanked the roomful of camouflage-clad soldiers about to board. They'd be working 12-hour days, seven days a week, he said, and he wasn't sure when he could send replacements. "You'll be operating in austere conditions," he said, "but just think how much more austere they are for those you'll be helping."

Dixon was ready. "This is the National Guard," he said. "It's what we do."

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