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159th Fighter Wing provides critical Hurricane Laura support

Airmen from the 159th Fighter Wing, Louisiana Air National Guard, load supplies in vehicles of residents affected by Hurricane Laura in Kinder, La., Aug 29, 2020.

Airmen from the 159th Fighter Wing, Louisiana Air National Guard, load supplies in vehicles of residents affected by Hurricane Laura in Kinder, La., Aug 29, 2020.

Louisiana National Guard Pfc. Reion Jones with the 1-141st Field Artillery Battalion, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, hauls ice to a citizen's vehicle while working at a distribution site following Hurricane Laura in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Sept. 4, 2020.

Louisiana National Guard Pfc. Reion Jones with the 1-141st Field Artillery Battalion, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, hauls ice to a citizen's vehicle while working at a distribution site following Hurricane Laura in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Sept. 4, 2020.

KINDER, La. – The Louisiana Air National Guard provided critical supplies to residents affected by the devastation caused by Hurricane Laura in central and west Louisiana.

Airmen from the 159th Fighter Wing in Belle Chasse established 11 points of distribution in Kinder, Oberlin, Oakdale and other towns to provide food, water, ice and other critical supplies to people affected by the hurricane.

“It’s important to help the community in some of the same ways they helped us for Hurricane Katrina,” said Master Sgt. Paul Gegenheimer, a Belle Chasse native with the 159th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “It’s helping a community that would help us in a pinch if we needed it, a chance to give back to them.”

Each distribution point was staffed by approximately 25 Airmen working from dawn until dusk. People drove up throughout the day while Airmen unloaded semitrucks full of supplies and loaded them into their vehicles. Some residents waited not just for themselves, but for their neighbors as well.

“These people and their commitment to helping their neighbors has been an awesome sight to see,” Gegenheimer said. “At one point, someone came by for a 93-year-old neighbor whose power went out and couldn’t make it out for herself.”

While the primary focus of the 159 FW has been helping the devastated communities, Airmen are also working with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind. At each location, Airmen are wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

“It’s been hot and it’s been hard work,” said Airman 1st Class Kerrigan Hebert, a New Orleans native with the 159th FW. “But seeing what these people have been through makes what we’re going through seem like nothing. It makes this work feel that much more worthwhile.”

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