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1192nd Transportation Terminal Brigade reservists step in to support hurricane victims.

As the city of New Orleans tries to gain a sense of normalcy after Hurricane Katrina's devastating blow, two 1192nd Transportation Terminal Brigade soldiers joined the fight. Despite the fact that parts of their city, as well as their unit's headquarters, were uninhabitable they used their hometown street smarts to network with key contacts and navigate local roadways to get food, water and basic staples to their neighbors in need.

"We're used to going through these storms," said Maj. Joe Woll. "When it's time to go, it's time to go. That's the nature of the beast. Now, we're trying to best put things back together."

Both Woll and Maj. Don Matherne know they have a lot to be thankful for. They both left the area with their families as the order came through to evacuate, and upon return, gratefully discovered their homes were in areas not significantly impacted by storm's fury. Woll's home was just a mere seven miles from 12 feet of water. Matherne needs a new roof with shingles ripped off by the storm's Category 5 winds. But to him, that is insignificant compared to the horrific sites he witnessed during the days that followed.

Once the men realized the magnitude of the damage and destruction and the hopeless plights of their fellow citizens, both decided it was not time to rest on their good fortune.

They decided it was time to give back. Both claim humbly that their actions were merely what anyone might do who escaped unscathed.

"Ain't no big deal," said Matherne. "You would have done the same things. That's what you do when you're in the military."

Their military training and leadership skills came in handy as the two witnessed the unthinkable and remained strong in areas sometimes marked with chaos and suffering. Matherne said his team of volunteers focused on the elderly and wheel chair bound and said many of the younger people opted to stay and take their chances.

"I spent that first night in a boat with rescuers," said Matherne. "I got people off roof tops and from their homes. There was one street we couldn't get to. I heard people crying."

The following days Matherne spent helping move the critically ill from the Super Dome and convoying them to area hospitals. He said there were tens of thousands of people stranded there, more than what was ever expected so he just "tried to calm them down and did they best I could."

"I went 48 hours without food or water," said Matherne. "I gave what I had; people were pulling on me for anything."

Matherne said stranded tourists from England, Australia, Korea and Canada joined him to help at the Arena Center behind the Super Dome. They were frightened and he offered to help them as a payback for their unselfish support helping the ill despite their own desperate situation.

"I took 15 tourists chest deep in water to dry land to a truck," said Matherne. "I brought them all to my house where they were fed, slept and used my phone to make flights back home. My wile lined up vehicles and friends and they took some to Houston and some to Alexandria to catch flights home."

Next, Matherne met up with Maj. Joe Woll, an activated Reservist with the 1192nd who was home on pass during the aftermath of the storm. The two, again, used their street smarts to help truckers get much needed supplies to stranded evacuees.

"As transporters, when we saw a truck on the side of the road with military cargo, we knew something was wrong," said Woll. "We ran over and asked what was going on."

The trucker had a water buffalo and containerized boxes of supplies. He knew his destination but was at a standstill with water and road blocks caused by the massive flooding.

"We knew the area well enough to get him where he needed to go," said Woll. And then another one came, this time with 36 pallets of food and water and emergency supplies. We took all their stuff by convoy using elevated expressways to maneuver on one highway that wasn't flooded and negotiated through the lower end of flood waters."

Next is when the real test began according to Woll.

"Things we take for granted, but they didn't have, like a pallet jack or a fork lift operator," said Woll who said they improvised using chains and bindings to drag each pallet to the door. "Maj. Matherne was able to operate the forklift, yet an offloading job that would normally take 45 minutes took us over four hours to accomplish."

The two soldiers' selfless deeds did not go unnoticed. Sgt. Jamin L. Brackett from the city of Gastonia, N.C., Police Department whose truck of supplies the soldiers helped his men get to their destination in Chalmette was proud of the outstanding service the two 1192nd officers rendered to his unit.

"Our department rushed to put a relief package together to assist a Capt. Jimmy Bartholomew of the St. Bernard Parrish Sheriff's Office," said Bracket in an email to Brig. Gen. Sandy Sanders, SDDC deputy commanding general for mobilization.

"We drove literally around the clock to reach our forward contact only to find ourselves sitting idle on I-10 in downtown New Orleans ... They led us safely through New Orleans ... both officers exhibited extraordinary concern and attention to our unit.... These two men were an answer to our prayers and have truly made a difference in a lot of lives."

Sanders echoed his sentiments.

"They as well as all of y'all from North Carolina are heroes," said Sanders. "Thanks, and when we meet, you got a cold one on me."

June M. Pagan, Public Affairs Specialist SDDC Operations Center
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Author:Pagan, June M.
Date:Sep 22, 2005
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