Guardsmen Provide Aid to Tornado-stricken Areas
By Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va., March 5, 2012 More than 700 National Guard soldiers and airmen are supporting civilian authorities today in four states recovering from tornadoes and floods.
Kentucky National Guard members search for survivors in West Liberty, Ky., March 3, 2012. Torrential storms and violent winds destroyed much of the community the day before. U.S. Army photo by Spc. David Bolton
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Civilian authorities in Indiana and Kentucky -- two of the most severely affected states -- noted how fast the National Guard had boots on the ground after the storms hit, and emergency managers attributed the speedy response to years of relationship-building and partnership.
“The deployment of the National Guard was one of the most timely deployments of Guardsmen I’ve ever seen,” said Capt. Scott Miller, a Kentucky state trooper. “The soldiers were ready to go within hours.”
Numbers of Guard members helping civilian authorities peaked at more than 800 yesterday. This morning, 390 Guard members were providing presence patrols and traffic control points in Kentucky, more than 70 were distributing water and conducting presence patrols in Indiana, more than 100 were providing security in Missouri, and more than 140 were removing debris after flooding in West Virginia.
Presence patrols, officials explained, provide security for residents of the devastated communities.
All four states declared states of emergency after tornadoes struck Feb. 29 and March 2 in the Midwest and South and heavy rains impacted West Virginia on Feb. 28. Severe storms affected several states Feb. 28 through March 3, National Guard Bureau officials reported. The storms left severe damage in their wake in numerous counties in the Midwest and the Southeast. At least 39 people died, many more were injured, and entire towns were destroyed, according to media reports.
With warnings of potential deadly tornadoes days before the storms hit, state National Guard leaders were ready to respond.
“I’ve never seen anything as devastating as I saw today,” Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson said after a March 3 damage survey in a Kentucky National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. “I’m very proud of the Kentucky National Guard and how quickly they respond.”
Kentucky National Guard members helped civilian rescuers and firefighters free two employees trapped in a Salyersville, Ky., auto parts store.
“It feels a lot safer having … the Kentucky National Guard provide a presence here in our community,” said Kenna Spears, who works in Salyersville.
“This is one of the things you sign up for -- both defending the country and the citizens of our state,” said Army Sgt. Brandon Lewis, on duty in Missouri after a yearlong tour in Afghanistan.
“The Guard is crucial to what we do,” said Stephanie Robey, manager of the Kentucky Department of Emergency Management’s recovery branch. “Our partnership is crucial to protecting public interest, people and property. You can always depend on the Guard.”
(Compiled from National Guard Bureau and Kentucky and Missouri National Guard reports.)