Almost 60,000 U.S. service members are aiding in rescue and recovery efforts in Louisiana
, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, Defense Department officials said Sept. 6.
Army Corps of Engineers personnel have closed the breaches in the levees surrounding New Orleans and have begun pumping out the water that has inundated the city, officials said.
Roughly 41,500 National Guard personnel are on duty in the area devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Almost 17,500 active duty personnel are on ships or on the ground in the region.
Joint Task Force Katrina is being relocated to USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7). The amphibious ship is docked in New Orleans, and the shift will improve command and control of the rescue and recovery efforts, DoD officials said.
The military is also providing 355 helicopters and 93 airplanes. The aircraft have flown 1,771 sorties to date, including 799 in the past 24 hours, officials said.
Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., and from the 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas, are arriving in New Orleans. Marines from Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Camp Lejeune, N.C., are moving into the Mississippi region. Also, 1,573 members of the Special Purpose Marine Ground Task Force have arrived in the U.S. Gulf Coast area and are en route to Naval Air Station New Orleans to support relief operations.
Communications among rescuers has been a problem. DoD is providing 1,500 mobile radios to Mississippi officials
. The department will also provide communications support to officials in Louisiana, officials said.