Guard Helps Local Authorities in Storm-stricken States
By Army Staff Sgt. Tracci Dorgan
South Carolina National Guard
GAFFNEY, S.C., Feb. 14, 2014 The mammoth winter storm that barreled through eastern states this week has been keeping about 3,000 National Guard members busy in nine states and the District of Columbia.
Virginia National Guard soldiers complete vehicle inspections during winter storm operations in Virginia, Feb. 12, 2014. Virginia Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Meghan Skrepenski
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
More precipitation added to the difficulty in some areas overnight, taking the form of either snow, sleet or a mix of both.
As the snow fell on Delaware the night of Feb. 12, soldiers and airmen were pre-positioned in each of the state’s three counties. The majority of missions involved transportation.
Delaware Guard personnel transported patients to the Veterans Affairs hospital for dialysis treatment, medical workers to the Christiana Hospital to start work shifts, and first responders to emergency operations centers, said Army Col. Dallas Wingate, the Delaware Guard’s director of military support.
In the District of Columbia, National Guard personnel were called up Feb. 12 by order of the secretary of the Army. Air Guard and active duty personnel from the 11th Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Md., were clearing snow to keep the D.C. Guard’s 24/7 alert mission up and running throughout the storm, protecting the skies over the nation’s capital with F-16 fighters standing by, a mission they have had since 9/11.
D.C. National Guard soldiers and airmen are conducting 24-hour operations at the D.C. National Guard Armory and Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in D.C., at Davison Army Airfield, Va., and at Joint Base Andrews. One of their jobs is to transport metropolitan police and fire personnel to duty.
“Our hearts go out to those who have had their homes or property damaged in this storm,” Army Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters, said. “We are doing everything we can to help the city return to normal operations. The city has asked for us for help, and we are responding, just as we always have in every emergency throughout its history.”
Guard officials said pre-positioning resources helped them deal with the effects of the ice and snow, which pummeled areas already hard-hit by a storm late last month that paralyzed parts of Georgia.
“We accomplished our objective of getting our units into place before the snow started to fall, and now we are staged and ready to assist with response operations if we are needed,” said. Army Col. James Zollar, director of joint operations for the Virginia National Guard.
Typical of the responses was in South Carolina, where Army National Guard wrecker teams moved out in full force to help during the winter storm that made roads dangerous around the Southeast.
Army Staff Sgt. Richard Krause was one of more than 100 soldiers put on state active duty to support one of 14 wrecker teams from the South Carolina Army National Guard assigned to assist the state Department of Public Safety.
“We recovered an 18-wheeler that broke down, partially blocking a lane, on I-85,” he said. “He was having transmission problems and couldn’t drive anymore. He was stuck for more than three hours before we got the call to help him. We arrived and towed him to the next exit, where he was able to park his truck safely and get out of the storm.”
Krause said no other towing vehicles could reach him, so it was important for a larger towing vehicle to get him clear of the road to keep all lanes clear on the highway. The South Carolina Army National Guard's 1089 A-1 wrecker weighs about 80,000 pounds, so it was able to safely drive on ice-covered roads.
The wrecker team -- which in addition to Krause included Staff Sgt. Jeffery Shaw, Sgt. Chris Barefoot and Sgt. Chris Grant -- was able to move the 18-wheeler off the road within 30 minutes of arriving.
“The team and I were happy we were able use our skills to help our community,” Krause said. “We were here before we were needed, staged off exit 90 at the Pilot gas station, ready to help. Because of our planning, we were able to respond quickly when we were needed.”
Krause said he was humbled by the number of people who stopped by and expressed their gratitude to the wrecker team while they waited to respond to calls.
Throughout the day Feb. 12 and into the night, wrecker teams also responded to calls for assistance by stranded motorists and other 18-wheelers who were stuck in areas around Spartanburg, Inman and Gaffney.
“It was a great experience to be able to help," Krause said. "People who passed us were happy for us just being there.”
The situation was much the same in North Carolina, where a television news crew came across state National Guard members working to free a stuck civilian ambulance and fire truck.
(Steve Marshall of the National Guard Bureau contributed to this story.)