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Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson
TEXAS CITY, Texas (Army News Service, Sep. 18, 2008)
For National Guard Soldiers here, shouts, thumps, beeps and the growl of hundreds of idling engines combined to produce a steady soundtrack for emergency point-of-distribution operations in a grocery store parking lot.
For the residents in the Gulf Coast area of Texas, many facing more days without power or water service, POD's are a source of basic supplies such as clean water, ice and food for their families and friends. The Texas National Guard has set up over twenty distribution points throughout the areas hit by Hurricane Ike, including Galveston Island.
"This operation was a 'put out a fire' decision to meet the needs of Texas City residents," said 1st Lt. Robert Kueber, a platoon leader with the 236th Military Police Company in San Antonio. Because of the short notice of the operation, the POD is a combined effort between several units, including the 536th Brigade Support Battalion at Camp Bullis and the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, both in San Antonio.
"The POD started operations three days ago," said Sgt. 1st Class Karl August from E Company, 536th Brigade Support Battalion, and it's been consistently busy. "It starts at 8 a.m. and it doesn't stop until it's dark," August said.
Despite the climbing temperatures and the never-ending line of cars, the Soldiers manning this POD are upbeat and motivated, August said.
"We can't focus on the bad things that have happened here," he said, "but the good things we're doing." The faster the Soldiers work, he said, "the faster (we) can help the community."
"These guys are more motivated than almost any Soldiers I've ever worked with," said Kueber. "They just want to keep at it all day."
Capt. Ross Clements, with the Texas City Police Department, says the PODs are a "great deal of help," before the basic city infrastructure is restored.
"They've been incredible," he said, and "not just in Texas City, but at Galveston Island, LaMarque and all over."
According to both August and Kueber, the interaction between Soldiers and residents has been very positive.
"The local community has been taking care of us really well," said August. To thank the Soldiers for their hard work, a barbeque pit has been set up in the evenings and "that gives us our motivation for the next day. The community is giving back considerably. "Residents have also brought sodas and Gatorade for the workers to say "thank you."
For Kueber, being able to respond to local disasters quickly is "one of the best things about the National Guard. We can bring a lot of people and equipment to the table on short notice, because we're already here in the community."
Being able to help fellow Texans and to know that help is appreciated is what keeps August responding to the call.
"This city has taken care of us and they've also kept our motivation high," he said. "We've heard nothing but praise. We appreciate it and that's enough for us."
(Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson works for the 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Texas National Guard)