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President monitors Hurricane Rita operations at Randolph

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AETCNS) -- President George W. Bush concluded an overnight visit here Sept. 25 where he received a briefing about the military's role in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.

The president also attended chapel services with members of the Randolph congregation before leaving San Antonio for Baton Rouge, La., where he was to receive further updates about response and recovery operations in the hurricane-affected area along the Gulf Coast.

The president arrived at Randolph on Sept. 24 from Austin, Texas, where he met with Texas Emergency Operations Center officials. His stop here was the second visit in as many days to a military installation involved in Hurricane Rita response operations. On Sept. 23, the president visited U.S. Northern Command headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., where military support for the storm was being coordinated.

At Randolph, he attended a 7:30 a.m. briefing today at Headquarters Air Education and Training Command. Army Lt. Gen. Robert Clark, joint task force commander for Hurricane Rita, and Maj. Gen. John White, task force air component coordination element commander, briefed the president about the current status of post-hurricane military operations and emergency response lessons the military has learned since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast region a few weeks ago.

"Part of the reason I've come down here, and part of the reason I went to NORTHCOM, was to better understand how the federal government can plan and surge equipment to mitigate natural disasters," President Bush said at the morning briefing.

"And I appreciate very much, general, your briefing, because it's precisely the kind of information that I'll take back to Washington to help all of us understand how we can do a better job in coordinating federal, state and local response."

Randolph is also serving as a staging base for helicopters and aircraft that are flying search and rescue missions along the Gulf Coast about 300 miles east of here. Crews made five saves and assisted in six others Sept. 24 during post-storm operations over areas of Louisiana and Texas affected by Hurricane Rita.

Active duty and Air Force Reserve aircrews from the 347th Rescue Wing at Moody AFB, Ga., and the 920th Rescue Wing from Patrick AFB, Fla., form one component of the humanitarian relief team that combines forces from the military services and local, state and federal agencies.
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