A National Guardsman and a systems administrator at Santa Monica College is still absorbing his experience after returning home from Louisiana Saturday, October 1st, where he helped provide security in New Orleans.
Brant Looney served a 32-day stint as a member of the National Guard’s 18th Cavalry, the first National Guard unit to be deployed to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck the city.
Looney says his assignment to New Orleans turned out to be a 16-hour job every day for a month.
“The smell was the worst — you just wanted to gag,” Looney said.
He called the combination of dead bodies and animals, raw sewage, chemicals, and rotten food “a gumbo.”
He was deployed to Louisiana Tuesday, August 29th, to handle security patrols, staff checkpoints, assess downed power lines, check on gas and water lines, rescue animals, and make damage assessments.
His unit was stationed at a middle school with no power or water at the edge of the floodwaters.
“Between the humidity and heat, there were a lot of sleepless nights, but we were so busy that we didn’t even have time to think about it,” Looney said.
Working in a 50-square-mile area, Looney and the unit made patrols in boats and on foot and helped the New Orleans Police Department try to stop looting and crime.
“We were a show of force to stop that activity,” Looney said.
He said he saw a few floating bodies, but federal authorities had ordered that the bodies be left where they were and tied to a tree or other stationary object.
He was told the bodies would be recovered by the local coroner’s office after the floodwaters receded.
Toward the end of his tour of duty, some stores had reopened and residents were returning to their homes.
“The people were so nice and thankful,” Looney said. “I’m feeling good and know we made a difference.”
Looney, who has worked at the Santa Monica College Academy of Entertainment and Technology for eight years, is a corporal in the National Guard.
He has served about three years of a six-year stint with the Guard and said this was the first time he had been called up for active duty.
Before being deployed, the college Management Association named him “Classified Employee of the Month” in August.
After returning to California, he was back to work at the college two days later, Monday, October 3rd.
He lives in Burbank with his wife Azure.