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Oklahoma Guard Aids Community After Devastating Tornado

By Army Capt. Geoff Legler
Special to American Forces Press Service

OKLAHOMA CITY, Feb. 12, 2009 – Tornado season in Oklahoma started more than a month early Feb. 10, as a tornado struck the town of Lone Grove.

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Army Spc. Barrett Troutman, right, and Army Spc. Timothy Stelly, center, use a map to show a local man the cordoned-off sections of Lone Grove, Okla. The soldiers were providing security for an area of Lone Grove that was devastated by a tornado Feb. 10, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Capt. Geoff Legler

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

The Category 3 tornado damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes and local businesses and took the lives of at least nine residents.

Local and state emergency management officials spent the evening searching the hardest-hit areas for survivors before forwarding a request to Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry for a limited call-up of Oklahoma National Guard members to assist local law enforcement.

Army 1st Lt. Jeremy Gonzalez and 27 other local Guard members reported yesterday to the Oklahoma Army National Guard Armory in Ardmore, where they received a mission briefing before making the six-mile drive to Lone Grove.

By 10 a.m., the soldiers were providing security at entry control points near the hardest-hit areas of Lone Grove.

Army Spc. Timothy Steely was assigned to an entry control point less than a mile from a 60-unit mobile home park that was destroyed by the half-mile-wide twister.

Steely, who returned from an eight-month deployment to Iraq in October, said he was glad to be of help to people in his local area during this difficult time.

“I spent eight months trying to make Iraq a safer place, and now I am more than happy to be here helping my fellow Oklahomans when they need it most,” he said.

That afternoon, Henry thanked the Oklahoma Guard for its quick response and said the citizen-soldiers of Oklahoma are always there when the state and its people need them.

Army Col. Robbie Asher, the Oklahoma Guard’s chief of staff, praised the quick response of local Guard members.

“Once again, the men and women of the Oklahoma National Guard have answered the call from their citizens,” he said, “and they responded in the most efficient manner that I have witnessed in many years. The Oklahoma National Guard is a community-based organization. We could not exist without the support of our local communities, and we will always be there to support them when they need it most.”

Oklahoma Guard soldiers are scheduled to be in Lone Grove until Feb. 16, when the governor will re-evaluate the security situation to determine if they should remain on state active duty any longer.

(Army Capt. Geoff Legler serves in the Oklahoma National Guard public affairs office.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageLeft to right, Albert Ashwood, Oklahoma state emergency management director; Army Col. Robbie Asher, Oklahoma National Guard chief of staff; and Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry are shown the path of a tornado that struck Lone Grove, Okla., Feb. 10, 2009. The Oklahoma National Guard activated 28 soldiers the next day to assist with relief efforts. U.S. Army photo by Capt. Geoff Legler  
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