SAN DIMAS, Calif. -When Craig Micklich was called by one of his ex-Navy Seal buddies to go on a rescue mission in New Orleans, he didn’t even hesitate. Micklich, an account executive within WesCorp’s Capital Markets division, is an ex-Navy Seal who has been out of the Seals for just two years. But Micklich said once you’re in the Seals you form a lifelong brotherhood that never goes away. “The guy who gave me the call, we’ll drop anything for each other. He said `I need your help’ and I said `I’m with you.’” It was that easy to get Micklich on board for what could be a very dangerous mission. The mission, which they dubbed “Operation Toxic Gumbo”, was to extract about 800 people stranded in the upscale Fairmont Hotel located on the corner of Canal and O’Keefe. The whole thing came about because Micklich’s Seal friend now works for Morgan Keegan in private wealth management and knows the CEO of the Fairmont Hotel. The CEO called and asked for his help. Of the 800 people, about half were guests and staff, and the other half those who sought refuge in the hotel. The job would be complicated by the fact that at the time of the planned extraction – Thursday, Sept. 1 -the Fairmont Hotel was in an area under Marshal Law. “The area we were in wasn’t being touched yet by the National Guard or police,” said Micklich. “Marshal law means there really isn’t a set law, there is no order.” Micklich and two of his ex-Seal buddies were joined by three Dallas police officers and one non-law enforcement individual who was skilled in handling weapons. The seven-person team departed from the Dallas area, where Micklich had been vacationing. Their extraction equipment included a Humvee, a Suburban and six buses. In terms of weaponry, they brought long guns and sidearms. Micklich said the long guns were particularly important because they act as a deterrent to any attacks. He said it’s unlikely looters, who are untrained with weapons, would attack them because of the threat the long guns pose. “We were locked and loaded, we brought some long guns as a show of force,” said Micklich. The team arrived in New Orleans at about 4:30 a.m. Thursday morning. Since the area was under Marshal Law, they had to get clearance from the Department of Homeland Security to access the hotel. Based on their Seal experience and with Dallas police officers also on the team, they were cleared to enter. The scene in New Orleans wasn’t pretty. “It was devastating. The place was trashed. The water was filled with sewage and gas,” he said. It was also obvious police cars and other official vehicles had been stolen. “It was pretty funny to see crackheads driving around in police cruisers,” said Michlick. At the Fairmont there was about two-feet of water in the lobby. “We drove right into the foyer, parked and contacted the general manager there. One of the people we brought with us was an ex-general manager of the place who could take over and get things done,” said Micklich. Any military mission needs intelligence, and the former manager was used for intelligence on the hotel and to help shut it down. Once inside, the desperation of the situation was evident. “We probably saved about 80 people who were near immediate death. There were elderly, people in terrible shape, and many probably within a day of dying, some were in shock. There were a number of health issues there,” he said. For those that needed ambulatory care, they were loaded on to the Humvee, Suburban and buses to be moved for immediate transport. Micklich said many people were just afraid to leave. Those who were in good health were led out on foot under the watchful eye of the rescue team. The team sought out people who were familiar with the area and gave them a map marked with a safe destination and had them lead people through the city to a safe haven one mile away. Other than some crowd control issues, the mission went off without a hitch – no shots were fired. He said the hotel was evacuated by about 2:00 p.m. Thursday and the team left the hotel at about 4:30. Micklich said the scene in New Orleans may seem devastating to most Americans, but it’s in many ways typical of some of the war-torn areas Micklich has seen in his Seal duty. “We’ve been in a lot of those situations overseas. I’d say this was more rewarding. Overseas it’s par for the course, it wasn’t scary,” he said. The looters have been all over the news, with some described as organized, armed gangs. Michlick said the gangs were a threat, but the show of force has an effect on untrained thugs – which he’s also learned from overseas missions. “They’re not experienced, they just have weapons. You bring weapons just as a show of force. They understand you’re armed,” he said. He said he expected the team may have had to fire some warning shots, but it never came to be. Micklich said the stories of police abandoning their jobs is tough for Americans to swallow, but in some ways understandable because they weren’t prepared for the horrific scenes they were exposed to. He also noted that the National Guard, while a powerful force, is a mixed bag and it takes time for them to restore order. “You have a mixed variety, you have some 18 year old kids who never saw anything,” he said. -pgentile@cutimes.com