Hurricane Katrina: How The Coast Guard Gets It Right

Where did those orange helicopters come from, anyway? The story of the little agency that could

Wil Milam, 39, is a rescue swimmer for the U.S. Coast Guard in Kodiak, Alaska, which means he spends most of his time jumping out of helicopters to help fishermen who break bones and pilots who crash their private planes. "We're pretty much the area ambulance service," he says. Before he was dispatched to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Milam had never been called out of Alaska for a mission and had never done urban search-and-rescue work. But like thousands of other personnel, he was brought to Louisiana to do what the Coast Guard does best: improvise wildly.

Milam...

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