Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office
Guardsmen stand ready during State of Emergency
Coverage by 133rd MPAD Soldiers:
Spc. Cassandra Groce in Monroe Co.
Spc. Michelle Waters and Pvt. 1st Class Brandon Cornell in Muhlenberg Co.
A series of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes created a path of destruction throughout the South in the late evening and early morning hours of Jan. 5 and 6. Seven people were killed after more than 14 confirmed tornadoes touched down in 11 counties in the Commonwealth, causing tremendous damage to property throughout Western and South Central Kentucky.
“It was a horrible situation,” said Gov. Steve Beshear. “The widespread storm damage left death and devastation in its path.”
Beshear responded quickly, monitoring the weather throughout the night and declaring a State of Emergency for those areas hardest hit.
Guard responds to Muhlenberg County
Tornadoes ripped through Greenville, Powderly and Central City, Ky., late in the evening of Feb. 5, resulting in power outages at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center where Soldiers from the 223rd Military Police Company were conducting pre-mobilization training.
Within 30 minutes, Soldiers in the second platoon were on ground in the nearby city of Powderly to assist city and Muhlenberg County officials with providing security to neighborhoods devastated by the tornado.
“My platoon was tasked to assist the local police in securing the areas,” said 2nd Lt. John Holliday, of the 223rd Military Police Company.
Holliday said the damage didn’t appear to be that wide-spread or devastating until the sun began to rise.
“As the sun came up, you could see the path where the tornadoes ripped through. We went to work with the State Police and Central City Police, and helped them to secure the areas that sustained the most damage,” he said.
Thirty-five members of the Central-City based 307th Maintenance Company relieved the Soldiers of the 223rd in the early morning hours Feb. 6.
The Soldiers organized into teams, controlling traffic coming in and out of devastated neighborhoods.
Sergeant 1st Class David L. Swan of the 307th said it is unfortunate that his unit has had so much experience dealing with natural disasters.
“We responded to Katrina, but this is here. This is at home,” Swan said.
“This is personal and it gives our troops a lot of pride knowing that they are helping their own community,” he said. “We go out and help others in a time of need, but this time we are helping ourselves. We are helping our mothers, fathers and our community at large.”
The unit is providing vehicles, a military wrecker, and a bus to support local and state agencies with security details in and around the area.
Field Artillery Assists in Monroe County
Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery Soldiers were called in to help emergency personnel control traffic and provide security from looters.
“Our mission was to support local EMS director Ricky Richardson,” 1st Sgt. Larry Gearlds said. “He gave us four areas he wanted us to patrol and secure - to reduce the amount of traffic flow and to keep gawkers and looters from the area.”
Gearlds alerted Soldiers in the 623rd at midnight Tuesday, asking for volunteers to help residents in Monroe County.
“I initially asked for volunteers and had very few who said they couldn’t do it,” he said.
“I was happy. This morning some had actually beat me here to the armory. By 7:30 (a.m.) we had people out on the roads. It worked well.”
About 25 Soldiers worked to maintain traffic points as well as check on residents who may have needed assistance in the area. Some of the Soldiers knew the families affected by the storms and stopped to offer comfort or help.
“This is our Soldier’s hometown,” Operations Sgt. Maj. Joey D. Simpson said. “Obviously, if they get an opportunity to work and help the people in their community, then that’s great. These are the people they grew up with, so if they get a chance to help out it is rewarding.”
Soldiers will continue helping those in Monroe County until they are no longer needed.