NEW ORLEANS -- The empty silence of a decimated New Orleans street is broken by the call of an infantryman, "United States Marines. Is anyone in there?" For the past six days, Marines from B Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, have been conducting search-and-rescue patrols with the help of Assault Amphibian Vehicles from 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion. Since their arrival here Sept. 5 as part of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force St. Bernard, the Marines of 1/8 and 4th Tracks have rescued 78 residents of New Orleans' hardest-hit areas. "We provide a unique capability to ongoing search and rescue efforts," said Maj. Henry June Jr., inspector instructor for B Company, 4th AAV Battalion, a reserve unit based out of Jacksonville, Fla. "It's very difficult for wheeled vehicles to get to the parts of the city we have been searching. We are the only tracked vehicle that can float, and that allows us to maneuver to hard-to-reach areas and disembark infantry to search." Although initial damage from the actual hurricane was less than anticipated, the rain and surge from the storm caused several of the city's levees to break, sending a tidal wave of water into many parts of the surrounding area.Navigating down debris-strewn city streets with up to ten feet of standing water, the Marines have been operating mostly in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes. Having experienced hurricanes before, 2nd Lt. Keeton R. Easley, 1st Platoon commander for B Co., 1/8, said he was shocked to see the extent of the damage."We didn't expect it to be this bad," Easley said. "However, despite the conditions, my Marines have handled their mission with great professionalism. They have done everything that's been asked of them and more."As some of the first rescue efforts to reach areas of the city still mostly under water, the Marines patrolled down rivers of water that used to be streets and highways, looking for signs of life and those in need of rescue. "It's encouraging to see military personnel coming home to support the home front," June said. "Whether here in Louisiana or overseas, our mission is to support and defend the United States of America."Due to the contamination of the water, the Marines maneuvered their amtracs along the sides of two-story buildings and the few dry patches of ground in order to get out and look for those in need. One of Bravo's Marines, a native of near-by Slidell, said this mission had a special place in his heart."It means a lot because I am able to get out and help people," said Cpl. Kyle E. Gaubert, 2nd squad leader, 1st Platoon, B Co. "It feels good to be a part of this mission, and we will continue to provide any assistance we can."After rescuing more than 70 people, the Marines of 1/8 and 4th Tracks prepare to shift their focus of effort towards clean-up and recovery. "These Marines came down here to accomplish any mission they are given," Easley said. "I couldn't be prouder to lead a platoon, than I am to lead these Marines."