WesCorp Exec (And Ex-SEAL) Helps Rescue Guests In New Orleans Hotel

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Craig Micklich had a most extraordinary day during what had been an ordinary vacation.

Micklich, an account executive for WesCorp and former U.S. Navy SEAL, saw a trip to Dallas turn into an impromptu rescue mission to this storm-ravaged city. He and six others combined to move 800 people stranded in a hotel to safety in a matter of hours.

"While I was in Dallas, a friend of mine who is the wealth manager for the CEO of the Fairmont Hotel chain, learned there were 800 people stuck at the Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans," Micklich told The Credit Union Journal. "The hotel was just off Canal Street, and they were told no one could get them out because the area was so dangerous."

Micklich said looters had broken into every store that sold guns, putting numerous weapons on the streets. On Aug. 31 in Dallas, Micklich and two other former SEALs were joined by three Dallas SWAT team members and a seventh man who was a friend of one of the SEALs. They quickly formed a team and began its meeting at 12:30 p.m., and was "out the door" by 5 p.m., he recalled.

During those few hours, the team obtained clearance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to enter the disaster area, gathered weapons and rounded up transportation. A Dallas car dealer donated a Humvee and a Chevrolet Suburban. The Fairmont chain contracted six buses.

The caravan made the 10-hour drive to New Orleans and arrived at the hotel at 4:30 a.m. on Sept. 1. "Under cover of darkness. That's the way we like it," he said.

The hotel was cut off by four-foot deep floodwaters. The buses were left on higher ground, while the two vehicles pushed through the streets. Upon arrival, the team secured the building and put lookouts on the roof.

Although the police and National Guard refused to enter the area, Micklich, a 12-year veteran SEAL, downplayed the danger.

"We were armed with rifles and sidearms. They were more for show of force, but they were there if we needed them. The crackheads that were there don't normally use guns, so if they see someone with a long gun such as a rifle, they clear out of the way. They were just looking for TVs to loot."

The hotel guests included several pregnant women, infants and numerous elderly people. Micklich said many people were going into shock. Those who could walk were escorted by the team through the waters to an evacuation center. Those who could not were transported a few at a time in the two vehicles.

"We began the extraction at 8:30 a.m. and we were done by 4 p.m.," he recalled. "Some of the people were very sick and in urgent need of medical care. Our job was to get them to a place they could get attention."

Those who could be moved were taken by bus to the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas, where they were able to let their families know they were safe.

As for Micklich, he said the leadership tactics he learned as a SEAL paid off. "What we learned is how to build teams. This was definitely the most rewarding thing I've done since I got out of the [SEAL] team. It was a lot of fun, and it brought back a lot of old memories."

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