A team of 200 Iowa National Guard members is home from post-hurricane duty in southern Mississippi. Lieutenant Colonel Dan Darland, one leader of the all-volunteer Task Force Iowa, says their duties included: providing medical services, purifying water and transporting all sorts of supplies.
Darland, commander of Iowa City’s 109th Medical Battalion, says they had planned to be gone three to six months, but they’re back after three weeks on the Gulf Coast. Darland says a lot of the troops who were there went home and the Iowa units were sent to support the others. Most of the ones who remain are Mississippi Guardsmen as they’re “back in business.”
Darland, a 40-year-old Davenport native and University of Iowa graduate, lives in DeWitt. His National Guard team was composed of citizen-soldiers from all across the Hawkeye State and he says he’s very pleased with how the relief effort went. What the mission turned out to be wasn’t what they originally planned for but Darland says “we helped a lot of people and when they were able to take care of themselves, then we came back home to get back into our lives.”
The Iowa troops had been based in Gulfport and Bay Saint Louis, two Mississippi cities that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Darland says he saw a host of improvements in the three weeks he was on the Gulf Coast.
He says the electricity was back on. The intersections were initially controlled by the military police but by the time they left, traffic lights were strung and working again. Schools were starting to open back up too. As for the returning Iowans, Darland says they’re still busy unpacking equipment today but should be headed home tonight (Wednesday).