September 12, 2005
Only on 12, about 45 members of Fort Gordon’s 93rd Signal Brigade have taken over part of New Orleans’ Airport. News 12 traveled to New Orleans and shows us how the terminal is now a communications headquarters.
At the Louie Armstrong Airport right next to Continental’s luggage carriers sits Fort Gordon’s communication tents. Here, the 56th Signal Battalion works as something like customer service for the military’s Internet and phone lines.
The 56th has taken over a wing of the airport. It’s like something straight out of Hollywood.
“Have you seen that movie with Tom Hanks, Terminal? That’s kind of what it’s like,” said Sgt. Matthew Huckleberry.
The higher up’s offices are where American Airlines’ employees usually work. Soldiers here claim to have the only working vending machine in the airport and are using luggage carriers to keep themselves hydrated.
And the soldiers are doing their best to make Concourse A their new home. They’ve set up computers in what was once a food court to make an office and cots here in the former waiting room to become a bedroom.
“We’re doing alright. It’s living a little tight up there, but we’re making it. Shower, bathrooms, you can’t ask for anymore,” said PFC Timothy Lesperance.
After long hours of work, these soldiers can sleep anywhere. Sometimes they find a few minutes for entertainment. And, when Lt. Colonel Stephen Middleton needs a haircut, the airport’s jacket works as a cape.
“It’s air conditioned, they have running water,” said Sergeant Tanya Barksdale.
Sergeant Tanya Barksdale says this may look odd, but living in an airport is actually a luxury.
“We’ve lived in tents, we’ve lived in an open warehouse, so this actually isn’t bad,” Barksdale said.
Sergeant Barksdale spent 19 months in Iraq and Kuwait and was expecting to be called back there, not to her own country. But Barksdale says helping the United States is her most fulfilling mission yet.
“It feels good to help other countries achieve what we have, but to be able to come in and help your own people out is an amazing feeling,” Barksdale said.
And that’s why Sergeant Barksdale and others from the 56th Signal Battalion will use these abnormal conditions to get New Orleans back to normal.