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I was in the national guard when hurricane Charlie went through south Florida. I spent six weeks as a guard and directing traffic at an ice and water distribution station in Punta Gorda. We passed out ice, water and food to about 3,000 cars each day.

That area has lots of communities that are built on small islands that are connected to the mainland with roads built on earthen berms. Many of these roads simply got washed away by the storm and the residents were trapped. We had about the only vehicles capable of getting to the people at these remote locations. We loaded Hummers and 5 ton trucks full of ice, water and food and drove through the communities passing it out. I had people crying and hugging my neck for giving them a few bags of ice and a case of water. They had been completely on their own for about a week at that time.

By this time the predators had also shown up to loot the damaged homes and rob people. We had patrols set up to guard against it, but our biggest danger was the citizen patrols. They tended to shoot first and ask questions later if they could not identify you. Once the powers that be came to grips with the fact that people were going to defend their own they began to work with them and it worked out pretty good.

There was also people who would do what we called “Milk Runs.” They had large 4 wheel drive off road vehicles and would charge people in the remote locations $20 each time to drop off ice, food and water. Eventually FEMA started issuing papers to people who volunteered to do this for free so we knew who was legitimate and who was not. These papers also allowed you to get gasoline too. But it was bad in the beginning.

Our site was under the direction of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Game Wardens. So we supported them when they needed it. I got to help catch one of these “Milk Run” guys. We knew the vehicle he was driving so we made sure his truck was stuck in line while we got into position. Once we were ready he was directed to a parking spot off to the side. When the officer asked him for identification and FEMA paperwork he got belligerent. Our Sergeant had already ordered six of us to surround the truck and I was standing behind and to the side of the officer. It was late afternoon, about 100 degrees, no breeze of any kind and I had been standing on a asphalt parking lot in full battle rattle since about 6 am. I had less than no patience for this guy and his attitude. The officer kept asking for his ID and FEMA papers and the guy got mad and quickly leaned over and reached in to his glove box. I stepped in, slid the bolt home on my M-16 loading a fresh round, pulled it to my shoulder and told him to move real slow. A split second later five more bolts slammed home, the officer drew his weapon and the place was locked down. You could have heard a pin drop. Realizing his life span was being measured with a stopwatch at this point he got real calm and cooperative. He was taken into custody without further incident. He had no weapons in his glove box, just vehicles registration papers and ID. As it turned out he was not making milk runs, he was legitimately giving out the ice, food and water to people in his neighborhood who needed it. The officer even helped him to get the right paperwork so he could continue to help out. The dumb ass almost got shot trying to get his ID because of his attitude. The moral of the story is that keeping calm and not giving attitude to a tired grumpy guy holding a loaded assault rifle can extend your lifespan considerably.