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Lt. Gen. Honore a 'John Wayne dude'

Commander of relief effort in New Orleans takes charge



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(CNN) -- New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin calls Lt. Gen. Russel Honore a "John Wayne dude" who can "get some stuff done."

"He came off the doggone chopper, and he started cussing and people started moving," Nagin said in an interview Thursday night with a local radio station. (See the Nagin video where he demands feds 'get off their asses' -- 12:09 )

The three-star general directed the deployment of an estimated 1,000 National Guard troops from a New Orleans street corner Friday, making it clear that it was a humanitarian relief operation. (Watch the convoy slog through floodwaters -- 3:33)

Getting food and water to the people at the city's convention center was a difficult process, Honore said.

"If you ever have 20,000 people come to supper, you know what I'm talking about. If it's easy, it would have been done already."

Honore recognizes that storm victims have waited days for relief, and his troops are trying to get them out of the city and into a more comfortable environment.

"Our number one task is to deal with the concentration of people in New Orleans, as well as those that are isolated. And we're going to get after it," he said. (Watch the exclusive video report of the general sent to the rescue -- 10:02)

The general acknowledged that frustration, and in some cases lawlessness, is building.

"By-and-large, these are families that are just waiting to get out of here. They are frustrated; I would be, too. I get frustrated at the cash register counter when the paper runs out."

Hundreds of National Guard and active duty troops are carrying weapons in the city. But the way they carried those guns was a concern to the general.

He ordered all he encountered to point their weapons down, said CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr, who was with the general. Honore repeatedly went up to military vehicles, National Guardsmen standing sentry and even to New Orleans police officers, telling them to please point their weapons down and reminding them that they were not in Iraq.

Honore commands the 1st Army, based at Fort Gillem in Forest Park, Georgia, outside Atlanta.

The general is a native of Lakeland, Louisiana, which is northwest of Baton Rouge. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in vocational agriculture from Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge in 1971. Honore was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the infantry upon graduation. He also has a master's degree in human resources from Troy State University.

He has served in a number of infantry command positions and at the Pentagon. Before taking command of the 1st Army, Honore commanded the Standing Joint Force Headquarters-Homeland Security, U.S. Northern Command.

Honore's daughter and other relatives live in New Orleans, but he has not seen them since he arrived in town.

"The priority is on this mission, getting these people out of here," he said.

The general came to rescue of one young mother trying to carry her twin babies down the street in the terrible heat and humidity of New Orleans, Starr reported. The mother was so exhausted the children were almost falling out of her arms.

The general went up to the woman and took both of her babies, handing them off to soldiers to carry, as he promised the mother that they were going to get her some help. The troops helped the three hurricane victims to a Coast Guard ship, where they were treated for exhaustion and dehydration.

Honore said he wants his troops' profile in New Orleans to be that of humanitarian relief operations, leaving the law enforcement role to the local police.

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