News: 63rd CST performs search and rescue in wake of devastating Moore tornado
By Sgt. Daniel Nelson Jr.
145th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
MOORE, Okla. - Following what may be the most destructive tornado in the history of the United States, the dedicated members of the 63rd Civil Support Team, Oklahoma National Guard, respond to the destruction that was left after the city of Moore, Okla., was ripped apart by a deadly tornado May 20.
The mission for the men and women of the Oklahoma National Guard is to support local law enforcement and other first responders in the wake of the devastation.
The 63rd CST, consisting of 22 full-time active guard reserve soldiers, specialize in conducting search and rescue operations, atmospheric monitoring for hazardous materials and searching for physical hazards such as live downed electrical lines. Many of the unit members have previously deployed and responded to other natural disasters including the search and rescue mission following a tornado in Piedmont, Okla., nearly two years ago.
However, this mission for the Oklahoma National Guard soldiers is more personal since many of the soldiers know people who have been directly affected by this disaster and some even living in the destruction path themselves.
“We get to serve our community at home,” stated Sgt. Warren Williams, a member of the 63rd CST. “There are a lot of other agencies coming from other locations, but this is personal for us.”
Taking a similar path as the deadly May 3, 1999 tornado, which claimed the lives of 44 people, this most recent tornado is thought to have been even more destructive with estimated damage costs rising above $1 billion. The communities of Newcastle, Moore and parts of south Oklahoma City are soon to begin the process of rebuilding once again, returning the debris ridden neighborhoods to what they once were.
“These are people we know, there are people in the unit who have been affected by this personally, so it’s satisfying to be out here helping our fellow neighbors,” said Williams.
First responders from across the country have converged on Oklahoma City and Moore to assist with the search and recovery effort. The efforts of the soldiers and first responders have resulted in more than 100 survivors being rescued from the storm shelters where they sought refuge from the storm.
Although the mission for the 63rd CST is far from complete, the commitment of service to community that has been demonstrated by the Oklahoma National Guard has greatly affected the success in the joint operation between military and local law enforcement on site.
“We work with the National Guard all of the time; it’s a really good pairing,” stated Joe Holley, head of Tennessee Task Force 1 and an emergency medical services physician. “The military is great at the logistics part of a mission, and we have some special capabilities different from what the military that tie together in order to get the job done.”