Soldiers in Humvees pull into the parking lot at the Family Ranch Gas Station on the corner of Bullard Avenue and Hayne Boulevard in eastern New Orleans, where the soldiers meet to map out their night of patrolling. A Black Hawk helicopter hovers overhead shining its searchlight on the soldiers, a signal the pilot will aid the patrols of the Seventh District -- the largest of the three districts patrolled by the Guard.
During residence checks in Venetian Isles over the last several weeks, night-shift soldiers have "caught a number of looters going after appliances and anything of value," says Alfred Travis, the 239 Military Police Company Commander of the Seventh District. In Venetian Isles, the soldiers are looking for a wide assortment of criminal activities: squatters, looters and drug users. A few weeks ago, a man ran out the back door of an apartment after the Guard arrived; when the soldiers entered the flooded apartment, they saw the man had been cooking crack.
While driving down a residential street, soldiers spot the open front door of an abandoned house that had been boarded closed a few days ago. Noticing an open door in a neighborhood that doesn't have working street lights "comes from patrolling the area and seeing what happens from one day to the next," Travis says. "A cop on this beat is going to know if a trash can is out of place."
A helicopter spotlight illuminates a scene in which soldiers save a distraught woman from drowning herself in Lake Pontchartrain. About an hour after they find the woman in the water, Sgt. Jeremy Watson and First Lt. Hal Bridges climb back over the rocks lining the banks of the lake, each holding one of the young woman's arms and guiding her over the rocks and up the levee.
The woman's attempt to drown herself came after she attended the funeral of a friend's 2-year-old child who was hit by a car, and then got into a fight with the friend. On top of that, she told soldiers, she has no place to live.