What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Friday, September 14, 2007

Barracks recovery viewed as symbol for Gulf Coast

9th Ward base could be in use within 18 months

Note from A.M. in the Morning! The article below demonstrates clearly that government, and not the soldiers themselves, determine where to build bases. It further demonstrates that communities of people and businesses build around those bases to provide the needed goods and services to provide for those soldiers and their families. In yesterday's piece titled Allstate Cancels Policies in Brooklyn, NY, Blames Katrina, I quoted a woman who had lived on the Florida Gulf Coast because of military assignments. This Times Picayune article further reminds us that the military and their families go where their military leaders tell them to go.

Friday, September 14, 2007 By Paul Rioux

Swamped by more than 10 feet of water during Hurricane Katrina, the 172-year-old Jackson Barracks could again serve as headquarters for the Louisiana National Guard in as few as 18 months thanks to a fast-track $200 million rebuilding project that officials hope will jump-start recovery in the Lower 9th Ward and western St. Bernard Parish.

"We were 100 percent destroyed by Katrina," Maj. Gen. Hunt Downer said. "But hold on, we're coming back, and we're rebuilding safer, stronger and smarter."

Downer shared his optimism for the military installation's future at a news conference Thursday after giving a tour to Donald Powell, head of President Bush's Gulf Coast reconstruction plan.

"Jackson Barracks will be a powerful symbol of recovery, like the Superdome and the bridge in Mississippi," Powell said, referring to the U.S. 90 bridge over St. Louis Bay. "This is progress, real progress." Downer said the Guard's headquarters, which have been moved to Camp Beauregard in Pineville, could return to Jackson Barracks when the first buildings are completed in 18 months. He said 90 percent of the structures on the 100-acre base along the New Orleans-St. Bernard Parish border are expected to be renovated within five years.

Steady rain Thursday afternoon prompted Guard officials to cancel a planned media tour of the rebuilding efforts.

Downer said the project's financing includes $163 million from the Department of Defense. Another $37 million in state money will be used to restore historic antebellum homes on the base as well as the Jackson Barracks Military Museum.

Noting that Jackson Barracks had a $100 million impact on the local economy before Katrina, Downer said the rebuilt base will fuel recovery efforts in the Lower 9th Ward, Arabi and Chalmette.

"Keep in mind: We're citizen soldiers," he said. "We eat in the mom-and-pop restaurants and shop at the stores around the barracks."

Before the storm, Jackson Barracks served as a base for more than 3,000 soldiers and had 650 year-round employees, 100 of whom lived there with their families. It remains unclear how many will return once work is complete.

The construction work has unearthed numerous historical artifacts linked to the military base, which was completed in 1835 at a cost of $180,000.

Some of the finds displayed Thursday were a slug from a muzzle-loading .58-caliber musket that was standard issue in the 1860s, a wooden die likely used for gambling in the 1870s and fragments from a bottle of Hostetter's Stomach Bitters, an alcohol-based medicinal tonic.

"Isn't that stuff neat?" Col. Doug Mouton asked. "It tells the story of what a soldier's life was like in the 19th century."

Paul Rioux can be reached at or at (504) 826-3321.

The Times-Picayune originally published this article here on September 14, 2007.

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