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Head of the Red Cross Points Finger at Louisiana's Homeland Security Department

Reported by Marie Therese - September 7, 2005

On last night's O'Reilly Factor (9-6-05) American Red Cross president Marsha "Marty" Evans repeated the reason the Red Cross did not go into New Orleans that is published on their official website. She claimed that Louisiana's State Homeland Security Department refused to allow the Red Cross into New Orleans because LA-DHS felt that the presence of the Red Cross "would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city." Neither she nor the website gave the name of the head of that department, but it was easily obtained on the website of the Department of Homeland Security in Washington.

The Adjutant General and Director for DHS in Louisiana is Major General Bennett C. Landreneau, who was appointed to his position in 1997 by former Louisiana Governor Mike Foster, a Republican. He was re-appointed by current Governor Kathleen Blanco in December 2003.

Here is the Major General's extensive biography:

"Major General Bennett C. Landreneau is the Adjutant General for Louisiana. He is responsible for the deployment and coordination of programs, policies and plans affecting the more than 14,000 members of the Louisiana Army and Air National Guard. He is also the Director of the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

"General Landreneau was born October 4, 1947. He graduated from Vidrine High School and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agronomy from the University of Southwestern Louisiana. His military education includes Officer Candidate School, Engineer Officer Basic Course, Engineer Officer Advanced Course, Mechanical Maintenance Course, Command and General Staff Officer Course, Infantry and Armor Pre-Command Course, and he is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College.

"General Landreneau began his military career in June 1969. He enlisted in the Louisiana National Guard as a Private and was trained as an Infantryman at Fort Polk, Louisiana. He attended Louisiana State Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1971. He has served in many positions including Platoon Leader, Company Commander, Battalion S-4, Battalion S-3, Battalion Executive Officer and Battalion Commander. During Operation Desert Storm, Brigadier General Landreneau served on active duty in Southwest Asia as Commander, 527th Engineer Battalion during Desert Storm. He later served as Commander of the 225th Engineer Group from 6 January 1992 until he assumed command of the 256th Infantry Brigade (Mechanized) headquartered in Lafayette, Louisiana on 1 August 1995. He was appointed as the Special Assistant to The Adjutant General on January 2, 1997. The General was assigned to his present position as Adjutant General on November 8, 1997.

"General LandreneauÂ’s decorations, awards and honors include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal with one Silver Oak Leaf Cluster, National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, Humanitarian Service Ribbon, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with one Hourglass Device and M Device, Army Service Ribbon, Army Reserve Components Overseas Training Ribbon with Numeral One, Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia), Kuwait Liberation Medal (Emirate of Kuwait),Louisiana Distinguished Service Medal, Louisiana Legion of Merit, Louisiana Recruiting Ribbon with Fleur-de-Lis, Louisiana War Cross, Louisiana Emergency Service Medal with two Fleur-de-Lis, and the Louisiana Longevity Ribbon with a Silver Fleur-de-Lis.

"General Landreneau is the immediate Past President of the National Guard Association of Louisiana and a member of the National Guard Association of the United States. He served as President of the Central Louisiana Chapter of the Society of American Military Engineers and the Louisiana Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society. He is a member of the Governor's Military Advisory Commission, Louisiana Drug Policy Board, Louisiana Emergency Response Commission, City of New Orleans Mayor's Military Advisory Board, Louisiana Emergency Response Commission, City of New Orleans Mayor's Military Advisory Commission, the Board of Commissioners for the Orleans Parish Communication District and a member of the Executive Board of the New Orleans Area Council, Boy Scouts of America.

"General Landreneau worked as a civilian employee with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service for over 30 years and retired as the Assistant State Conservationist in 1996. He was the recipient of numerous awards with that agency including two USDA Distinguished Service awards and one USDA Superior Service award presented to him by the Secretary of Agriculture.

"He was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General on December 3, 1996, with federal recognition on the same date. He assumed his state appointed grade of Major General on May 12, 1998.

"General Landreneau resides at Jackson Barracks in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is married to the former Dolores Fontenot and is the father of four children: Melissa, Chad, Monique and Layne.

However, it would seem that this seasoned military man - if Mrs. Evans and the Red Cross website are to be believed - refused to allow the Red Cross (or any other relief organizations) into News Orleans.

Mrs. Evans and Bill O'Reilly discussed this on last night's show:

O'REILLY: But the Red Cross is running into some problems in the hurricane zone ... So, you had a hard time getting to the folks quickly. Why?

EVANS: Well, Bill, the specific issue is getting into New Orleans and I want your audience to know that the Red Cross was ready from literally the moment after the storm passed through to go into New Orleans. We were not allowed to go in by the Homeland Security - the state Homeland Security authorities. Red Cross is not a search and rescue organization, so we depend on the state and local authorities, you know, to make sure it's possible for us to get in and in this particular case, they did not want us to go in because they were trying to evacuate the city. In the, the course of the storm we evacuated, prior to its coming through, we evacuated, we sheltered in 90 shelters, hundreds, thousands of people from New Orleans, so we have been ready to go in. We're ready today to go in. We're waiting for the word that - that it's possible to go.

O'REILLY: OK. But I think a lot of it has to do with your security of your people. Um, in the first days after the hurricane, there was no security in the town.

EVANS: That's right.

O'REILLY: And if you had gone in, you know, the thugs with the AK-47s could have done damage, as they did to med-evac workers, to hospital workers, to doctors. We went all through that. Now it's under control.

EVANS: Right. [End of excerpt.]

COMMENT

According to her official biography Mrs. Evans also has an impressive military record, having achieved the rank of Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy. She then headed up the Girl Scouts and currently "sits on the corporate boards of The May Department Stores Company, Weight Watchers International, and Lehman Brothers Holdings. She is a presidential appointee to the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Military Academy."

If, as the Red Cross contends, Major General Landreneau's branch of the Homeland Security Department refused to allow relief organizations into New Orleans and at the same time, as has been noted elsewhere, FEMA refused to permit people to leave, it would seem that the stranded residents of New Orleans were, for all intents and purposes, prisoners in the city.

There is, however, at least one slightly different take on why the Red Cross did not come into New Orleans. The following is from the New Orleans Times-Picayune. With their offices under water, they are reporting on the web.

"[Jefferson Parish Emergency Preparedness Director Walter] Maestri also was upset with American Red Cross officials for delaying the staffing of shelters in the parish. He said a Red Cross official said he should send a staffer to Mount Olive, La., with a request for personnel. When the staffer arrived, he was handed a note saying help would not be coming until it was safe for Red Cross workers.

"They can go to Iraq and Afghanistan and tell us it's too dangerous to New Orleans," he said. "I've got that note and will frame it with a copy of my resignation letter for the board of directors of the southeastern Louisiana Red Cross." (Times-Picayune, 9-2-05)

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