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Face of Defense: Soldier Taps Experience to Aid Tornado Victims

By Air Force Airman 1st Class Kasey Phipps
137th Air Refueling Wing

MOORE, Okla., May 28, 2013 – Oklahoma is known for its volatile weather and tornadoes, prompting state officials to dedicate countless hours toward educating and preparing its citizens for when disaster strikes.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army 1st Sgt. Michael Treanor poses next to his emergency response vehicle while performing equipment maintenance after the May 20, 2013, tornado response in Moore, Okla. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Bruce

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Unpredictable events in Oklahoma are not, however, confined to weather. Its history remains shadowed by the tragedy of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing on April 19, 1995, in which 168 people lost their lives.

However, Oklahoma has gained perhaps a stronger reputation for the resilience of its people and their ability to come together as one to rebuild communities stricken by disaster.

Today, Oklahomans once again are picking up the pieces left scattered by the devastating May 20 tornado that left a 17-mile long path of destruction and resulted in 24 deaths, 10 of which were children.

Army 1st Sgt. Michael Treanor of the Oklahoma National Guard’s 63rd Civil Support Team relies on his firsthand experience with tragedy to aid and comfort the tornado’s survivors.

On the morning of the Murrah building bombing, Treanor’s parents, LaRue and Luther Treanor, took his step-daughter, Ashley, into the Social Security Administration office for a routine appointment to settle some paperwork. After the appointment, their plan was to take Ashley to lunch and walk around the city. When the fateful blast happened, only a single glass pane separated them from the detonation.

At the time, Treanor was a member of an Army National Guard unit in Ponca City, Okla., but they had not yet been tasked to assist in recovery efforts.

“It’s hard to sit on the sideline,” he said. “It was one of those things where it was just like, ‘There has got to be something more.’ So, in 2000, when I heard about the civil support teams being created and their mission, I decided at that point it was a job I had to have at some time in my life. So I’ve kind of been working to get to where I am ever since then.”

Now, as a safety officer for the 63rd CST, Treanor is able to get on the ground with his team members, who are trained to respond to a number of emergency scenarios, including search and rescue and the control of hazardous materials. They also have communications on the ground to track National Guardsmen and other emergency responders.

“I’m trained to be a first responder. If something happens, it’s a guarantee that my team will be involved and I really take a lot of satisfaction in that,” he said. “It means a lot to me.”

He understands the need to help, especially those who are from his native Oklahoma. But he also understands the emotional toll disasters have on his fellow citizens.

“The loss, the pain, the confusion as to what to do -- we went through all of that,” Treanor said. “You never completely forget or get over that loss; you just learn to deal with it. In doing that with our family, it’s helped us to help other people. It’s been a really educational experience for me.”

He again witnessed the unification of Oklahomans and their overwhelming generosity in the aftermath of the May 20 tornado, even as those affected sift through the rubble to recover whatever belongings that might help return them to normalcy.

“There was a lot of professionalism and courtesy to the victims,” he said. “I think every time a sad event like this happens, we learn something from it and improve on it.”

As disaster and tragedy continue to befall Oklahomans, each instance provides a little more experience and strength to use the next time disaster strikes.

Oklahoma has used the recent tornado and past disasters to build a unified and unfaltering resilience to support both the physical efforts and the emotional needs left by the damage.

“When it happens again, because Oklahoma means tornadoes, we will be even better prepared to respond,” Treanor said.


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Related Sites:
Oklahoma National Guard
Special Report -- Disaster Relief: Oklahoma Tornadoes

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