Thursday, November 16, 2006

For once a response makes it to print.

Last week the Berkshire Eagle ran a typical Hurricane Katrina hit piece that included the following passage:

In 1995, when a tornado ripped through South Berkshire, several National Guard units were on hand the next day to aid cleanup efforts. But Guard help in Louisiana has been stretched thin because of the troops needed for the war in Iraq.

We've all seen variations of this written in "news" pieces all across the country and I know I've responded to those charges on blogs dozens of times. To the credit of the Berkshire Eagle and frankly to my great shock they ran this letter that was written in response:

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:
I am writing in response to your article "Picking up the Pieces," which appeared Nov. 12. I don't believe the article's statement, "Guard help in Louisiana has been stretched thin because of ... the war in Iraq," tells the whole story.

The fact is, despite overseas deployments, the National Guard mobilized the largest response to a natural disaster in U.S. history — 50,000 National Guard members from across the country responded to the Gulf Coast to save lives and assist with relief efforts, including more than 600 soldiers and airmen from the Massachusetts National Guard.

National Guard forces were rescuing people within four hours of Katrina's passing. The Guard had more than 11,000 members involved in rescue operations on Aug. 31, when the governors asked for more troops, and amassed an additional 30,000 soldiers and airmen within 96 hours.

Hurricane Katrina was the most destructive natural disaster in U.S. history. Comparing the National Guard's response to Katrina with our response to the 1995 tornado that hit South Berkshire is ridiculous.

That said, the Massachusetts National Guard remains ready to respond to emergencies in the commonwealth. Despite Iraq and other federal missions, 5,800 of our 7,800 members are in the commonwealth, available in case of emergency. No state could respond alone to a disaster of Katrina's scale, however, and the Emergency Management Assistance Compact provides us with access to more than 350,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen nationwide.

Make no mistake, whatever comes our way, the National Guard will be there.



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