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Dobbins serves as transportation hub for evacuees

050901-F-3742P-003     Lt. Col. Martha (Marty) Soper from 22nd Air Force gives direction to volunteers offloading critically injured patients evacuated from New Orleans as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The patients were sent to Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., Sept. 1 where they were stabilized and transported to Atlanta hospitals. (U.S. Air Force photo by Donald Peek)

050901-F-3742P-003 Lt. Col. Martha (Marty) Soper from 22nd Air Force gives direction to volunteers offloading critically injured patients evacuated from New Orleans as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The patients were sent to Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., Sept. 1 where they were stabilized and transported to Atlanta hospitals. (U.S. Air Force photo by Donald Peek)

DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. -- Hurricane Katrina evacuees started arriving here by military airlift in the afternoon Sept. 1. By the morning of Sept. 5, a total of 1,205 had touched down at the Marietta base and were transported to area shelters or hospitals.

In all, 17 planes – C-17s, C-141s and even some Delta commercial airliners – made the trip from New Orleans to Dobbins with people left homeless by the most destructive storm in U.S. history.

Of the 1,205 evacuees, 369 were elderly and sick New Orleans residents who were evaluated and cared for by Veterans Administration officials in a Dobbins hangar before being sent by ambulance to numerous hospitals in the Atlanta area.

“These people have lost everything,” said Ken Farrey, the Air Force liaison to the Veterans Administration/Federal Coordinating Center at Dobbins, who was helping orchestrate the Herculean effort to get the evacuees the medical help they needed and get them transported to the waiting hospitals. “Many of them left New Orleans with just a hospital gown on their back. Some didn’t have slippers for their feet.”

Dobbins became a major player in the evacuation process when the National Disaster Medical System was activated Aug. 31.

Mr. Farrey was at Dobbins throughout the weekend, helping take care of the evacuees as well as the people involved in the evacuation effort. He bounced back and forth between the flight line and the hangar to make sure everybody had what they needed to take care of the displaced Louisiana residents.

He said the cooperation between the agencies involved in the relocation operation was superb.

“Everybody pitched in wherever they could help,” he said.
Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Georgia Emergency Medical Agency, VA, Georgia Department of Human Resources, Red Cross, Cobb County Emergency Management and Cobb/Douglas Public Health, as well as people from throughout the Dobbins community, played key roles in the evacuation process.

When a call went out across the base Sept. 2 looking for volunteers to help carry patient litters from the flight line to the hangar, dozens of military members and civilians responded in a matter of minutes.

“And the support from the local community has been tremendous,” Mr. Farrey said. “Restaurants donated food for the evacuees and the volunteers, plus there were donations of clothing for the evacuees and toys for the children.”
Mr. Farrey said no more evacuation flights are scheduled at this time, but if there are more, Dobbins will be ready.

“These people’s lives have been turned upside down. We’ll be ready to help them anyway we can,” he said.