National Guard to conduct training in Hackberry

On Saturday, March 31st, the National Guard will conduct a training exercise in Hackberry.

The exercise is a disaster response and media briefing. It will include boat and air search with rescue operations for people and livestock.

The purpose of the exercise is to "Test state emergency personnel response plans and identify deficiencies prior to the 2012 hurricane season. Media personnel are invited to arrive at 9:45 a.m. at the Bonnet Carre Spillway to observe the exercise with a press briefing to begin at approximately 10 a.m."

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The following is a press release from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and forestry:

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said livestock experts with the Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF), LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Cattlemen's Association will be training with the Louisiana National Guard March 31- April 1 in airborne rapid damage assessment techniques at locations in the Bonnet Carre Spillway and Hackberry.

Media briefings will be held at 10 a.m. at the Bonnet Carre and 1 p.m. in Hackberry March 31.

Strain said the training will help in search and rescue operations after the initial onslaught of an emergency is over.

"Livestock are sometimes displaced by a storm and wander onto highways and other high ground areas and can present hazards for search and rescue operations," Strain said. "We'll be practicing integrated search and rescue protocol that will include locating livestock and relaying the information from local emergency operation centers (EOCs) to the state and federal EOCs for quick assessment and allocation of resources."

"While search and rescue needs are being determined, our personnel will also be determining what resources can be allocated to humanely help stranded livestock with water and food until the emergency event is over."

Strain said the LDAF mobile command vehicle will be positioned at the location and serve as a communication center between the Bonnet Carre and the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparation in Baton Rouge.

A demonstration of the LDAF emergency refueling system will also be featured during the two day event.

LDAF personnel work closely with the LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Cattlemen's Association to protect agricultural interests in the aftermaths of hurricanes and other disasters.

"This hands-on opportunity for local Extension agents to practice air reconnaissance and livestock rescue operations is extremely valuable," said Paul Coreil, Vice Chancellor and Director of the LSU AgCenter Extension Service. "All of us on the state's hurricane recovery team will be better prepared to respond efficiently and effectively - saving lives and protecting agricultural assets - when the next storm strikes."

"The Louisiana Cattlemen's Association is committed to being a full partner in any emergency recovery effort related to helping our fellow cattlemen help distressed livestock," said Robert Joyner, Executive Vice President of the Louisiana Cattlemen's Association. "I expect we'll learn a lot from the Guardsmen and they'll learn a lot from us."

The exercise begins at 10:15 a.m. at the Bonnet Carre Spillway on March 31.

Other agencies participating in the exercise are the Louisiana State Police, Louisiana Sheriff's Association and state departments of Wildlife and fisheries, Health and Hospitals, Transportation and Development, Children and Family Services, United States Department of Agriculture, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Cameron, St. Charles and St. Bernard Emergency Operations Centers.