Meet the Cajun Navy:
“They can handle their boats better than the average fireman, who handles a boat once a year during annual training,” says Lt. General (ret.) Russel Honore, who estimates outdoorsmen saved 10,000 from floodwaters in New Orleans while he was in command there after Hurricane Katrina. “They use their boats all the time and know their waters, and know their capacity. It’s an old professional pride. It’s like good food: Some people didn’t go to the Cordon Bleu, but they can cook like hell. That’s these fishermen and their boats.”
Buster Stoker, 21, is a heavy equipment operator for R&R Construction in Sulphur, La., and spends the rest of his time in his 17-foot aluminum Pro Drive marsh boat, fishing for alligator-gar in the heat of summer and chasing fowl through water-thickets in the winter.
“The best day on the water is every day on the water,” he said.
He and several other construction colleagues met in the company parking lot Monday morning at 5 a.m., loaded up with gas and supplies, and headed toward Houston. They launched their little fleet of 14 craft from the intersection of Highway 90 and 526, and over the next several hours they pulled hundreds of people out of their flooded homes in subdivisions, hauling them aboard like gasping bass.
This Cajun Navy is a nebulous, informal thing. It has no real corps or officers. It’s “an intensely informal and unorganized operation,” says Academy Award-winning filmmaker Allan Durand, a Lafayette, La., native., who did a documentary on the “Cajun Navy” volunteer-boats following Katrina.
It’s a movement basically founded on the realization that large government agencies aren’t quick-moving.
According to Honore, they have become utterly essential.
“The first-responders aren’t big enough to do this,” he said. “You might have a police force of 3,000, and maybe 200 know how to handle a boat.”
And that’s a citizen militia.
ETA: Watch this.
Further update: Read this.