Defense secretary recognizes Guard’s Katrina response

ARLINGTON, Va. – Donald Rumsfeld, during his final week as secretary of defense, recognized Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal on Dec. 13 for the “amazing response of the National Guard” following Hurricane Katrina in September 2005.

Rumsfeld also recognized and thanked 31 other military and civilian Defense Department workers for their contributions during his six years as defense secretary.

“Secretary Rumsfeld has been a strong supporter of the National Guard and is one of our nation’s great patriots,” said Blum.”

“The Defense Distinguished Service Medal was humbly accepted on behalf of the 460,000 Soldiers and Airmen of the National Guard in the 50 states, two territories, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and District of Columbia that made our response to Hurricane Katrina possible,” Blum added.

“It was our finest hour. I was never more proud of being the chief of the National Guard Bureau than at that time,” said Blum about the fact that 50,000 Guard members responded to the domestic crisis.

Rumsfeld leaves the Department of Defense Dec. 18. Robert Michael Gates has been confirmed as the 22nd secretary of defense and will assume the post at that time.

“In recognizing the folks here, please know that we are honored that they were part of a team,” said Rumsfeld of the distinguished service members and civilians. “We honor each of you.”

Defense officials credited Blum with coordinating the largest and fastest military mobilization in U.S. history.

While more than 80,000 troops were deployed in combat zones, and in the face of the nations’ most devastating natural disaster, Blum coordinated and directed a swift and comprehensive nationwide domestic response on a scale unseen in American history, officials said.

Blum proudly shares the credit for the Guard’s accomplishment with the Soldiers and Airmen of the Guard, the adjutants general, and the nation’s governors. On Dec. 11 he unveiled the National Guard’s newest Heritage Painting, “In Katrina’s Wake,” which portrays the Air National Guard’s relief efforts along the Gulf Coast.

“You accomplished what no other organization in the nation could,” Blum told the Guard’s senior leaders during a conference in Baltimore. “It was your finest hour.”

In fact, Guard Soldiers and Airmen responded within four hours after the storm passed, and more than 50,000 of them deployed for the recovery operation.

“He picked them up and moved them out: 50,000 Guard members,” Rumsfeld said of Blum. “It was a spectacular job.”

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