No One Believed in the Seriousness of Hurricane Katrina

The structure and experience of the command relationships were critical for the reestablishment of order during Hurricane Katrina that hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, leaving massive destruction. Approximately 1,800 lives were lost due to the lack of state and government resources and the total cost of damage was over $90 billion dollars, with a record number of homes destroyed. The nation needed to come together to save the people of the Gulf states of Louisiana and Mississippi.

The nature of command relationships in the military are foundations to direct, lead and control, it is with this military experience that Servant Leaders can effectively give critical direction and information to Soldiers and civilians through multiple channels of communication. This form of communication allows better decisions to be made and critical information to seamlessly reach the public. When disaster strikes in the United States, the quicker our military armed forces respond can make the difference between greater or less destruction and loss of life.

Command relationship dynamics are important to the success of all military operations. Whether in a civil domestic environment like the hurricane during Katrina or in a full-scale military operation, the complexities and dynamics are the same. Command relationship dynamics are the models that we need to follow because reducing time is critical. In Katrina, precious time was lost and delays in the actions of the States of Louisiana and Mississippi “led to chaos and panic in the affected areas, endangering citizens’ property and lives. The delayed reaction to this crisis suggests the need for an expansion of existing presidential authority to use active military forces to rapidly secure the disaster area” (Tkacz, 2006).

How the command and support come together to synchronize the correct use of time and military resources depends on the dynamics. This is a quantitative and qualitative approach using the numbers of affected people and the lack of abilities to solve basic problems.

Prior to responding to an emergency, how the military and civilian authorities will respond is directly tied to the training they received. If the training was not advanced and the training was not realistic, the different agencies fall short of the expectations needed to resolve the issues and repair the infrastructure. Before a fire, natural disaster, flood, or hurricane, proper risk training will help responders and military personal safely evaluate the situation, plan for a response, and mitigate the different levels of hazards. Preparation and action always make the calculated differences before, during, and after an emergency. Before disaster strikes, the military and government agencies at all levels coordinate how their response will improve the situation. They use lessons learned from past experiences, which greatly improves future emergency training.

During Hurricane Katrina, the emergency personal and first responders were completely unprepared for such a disaster and overwhelmed by the heights of the flood waters. The water reached heights of twenty plus feet and communications for speaking between police, fire, and rescue did not work. How can a state or municipality manage a critical situation like a disaster without the ability to communicate?

The lack of coordination between the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and the Federal government needed to be fixed. “The Bush administration hesitated to send active-duty military forces because they feared it would appear that the President was seizing executive authority from a female governor of another political party” (Tkacz, 2006). During the hurricane response, coordination between Federal and State governments needed to happen quickly. With the critical needs for this situation to quickly come together to form a stable controlled leadership, the Federal government made the decision to respond to the people’s needs. It was the basic need for survival that helped save lives. The people who needed to be rescued counted on the support of the first responders. While President Bush, the Commander in Chief, was holding back on sending military forces to respond to the needs of the storm, the governors of the states of Louisiana and Mississippi were desperately trying to manage their states. There was terrible communication between the first responders and the state government. This made rescue efforts impossible to coordinate how the citizens would be saved.

The common issue facing command relationships is the challenge of how the armed forces and federal government accomplish their missions and operate during the civilian conflict. “In the aftermath of particularly complex catastrophic incidents, it may be necessary to provide federal military personnel. The President may direct DoD forces to restore order pursuant to Sections 251-255 of Title 10, U.S.C., also known and referred to in this volume as “The Insurrection Act,” which is a statutory exception to Section 1385 of Title 18, U.S.C., also known and referred to in this volume as “The Posse Comitatus Act.” (DoDM 3025.01, Vol. 2, 2017). This Act clearly defines how military and civilian authoritative powers should be kept separate and not cross lines of functionality. There are multiple issues during a response to a natural disaster, such as where to put the displaced people and helping meet their immediate needs like temporary housing, food, and clothes. Other issues to be addressed are how the displaced people pay their bills when their income stops, how children attend school to further their education, and how to find displaced loved ones and pets. The Red Cross and the Salvation Army add additional support during these times.

During Katrina, decisions should have been made sooner to use the United States military. ”The President had legal authority to take control of National Guard troops as well as deploy active-duty troops to the affected areas in the absence of requests by state officials” (Tkacz, 2006). As we look to the future and the next national disaster, we can ask ourselves are we any better prepared? Hopefully, the next group of policy and decision makers have the courage to be forward-thinking. By putting political gain behind themselves, they put the American people and the needs of basic humanity in front of their own needs and fixation of political gain.

Four key points that the military learned in the wake of Hurricane Katrina were to go Unclassified early, provide support, Go guard, and practice. It is important to share communication with all parties involved. Approving a plan, using the plan, and moving onto activating different branches of government to include the regular Active Duty and the Army National Guard to include the Reserves is the best course of action. The military would assist local, municipal, and state governments, execute the laid-out plan and be prepared to shift to the left or right, even fall back if needed. When the plan and the events of a natural or national disaster show promise of slowing down or stabilizing, move to end or terminate the operation and return as close to normal as possible. The states directly affected by Katrina were under a State of Emergency that quickly turned into a National Emergency. The National Guard in these states immediately started relief operations. “According to the Army’s Combat Studies Institute, over 46,000 guardsmen were active in Louisiana and Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, outnumbering federal troops more than 2-to-1 and exceeding the active force’s helicopter contribution” (Burke 2015). When the flood waters reached levels too high for ground control, the National Guard had to pull back for the safety of the Soldiers and the inability to use vehicles. They had to use boats and air support. The Active Duty component, made up of all branches, assisted in recovery efforts, and helped to provide security due to looting and statewide panic. To gain additional command and control this continued relationship between the Active Duty and Reserves grew stronger, much like the bonds that were formed from military deployments and missions overseas. We are fortunate to have a highly skilled and proficiently trained military. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), under the direction of the Federal government, was used to help support and direct the military operations. Active Duty Soldiers, National Guard, and Reserves used all their military experience and resources to help in the search and rescue of the citizens during Katrina. They regained command and control along with good communication to reestablish order and sustainability.

Katrina happened almost four years after 9/11 and the Nation still showed it was unable to respond effectively to a catastrophe. Because of ineffective communication, a lack of strategic and basic planning, our government lacked the disaster preparedness that FEMA and government officials should have had in place. The government had structured plans to handle natural disasters and should have acted on the information from the weather bureau and meteorologists. Just days before landfall, the response system failed to warn the people and government employees were not actively warning residents to evacuate the areas like they should have been. They should have been more proactive.

We continue to learn from disasters on how to prepare our civil and government partners to effectively respond to the Nation’s needs. Our partners need simulated realistic training as close as possible to real-world events. We can begin to solve the problems we face in the future. The government and civil authorities working well together have proven that through communication and knowledge sharing they will improve on their combined responses during a national disaster. Through the National Incident Management System (NIMS) we can teach refresher emergency management classes. These government classes are the standard for gaining knowledge on becoming better skilled in handling real world situations like disasters. With these classes, you can learn to become an incident commander. As a commander, you have full command over the agencies that help during incidents. An incident commander’s responsibility is to delegate how a crisis responder responds to emergencies. FEMA also offers training and education classes. By mitigating disasters FEMA can try to prevent emergency situations from getting out of hand by using the 2018-2022 FEMA strategic plan.

Conclusion

Hurricane Katrina could have turned out differently. By simply having a stronger government presence and the calculated proper use of command structure. With the proper use of military and government resources, and experiences through years of practice, the military deployed to disaster areas can react quickly and offer natural disasters like Katrina resources like no other entity. Much like war, when our nation is prepared, we have better and more successful outcomes. Like war, disasters destroy communities and have long term negative psychological and economical effects on communities. These effects negatively impact culture or group of people. Improvements need to continue, and hard lessons need to be learned. If we do not start to change where will our world go to?