News: The Tennessee National Guard provides disaster recovery support
FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. – Soldiers from the Tennessee National Guard’s 253rd Military Police Company assisted local authorities across storm stricken areas of Lincoln County, Tenn., after a powerful tornado devastated the region on the evening of April 28.
Local responders requested support from the Guard through the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency with Soldiers on site by 4 a.m. on April 29.
“We are assisting in search and recovery efforts by conducting door-to-door checks of residents in the damaged area. Our role is to provide local responders with additional manpower to aid victims of this tragedy,” said the Tennessee Guard’s noncommissioned officer in charge of the mission, Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Graves. “We will be here for as long as we're needed.”
“One of the missions of the Tennessee Military Department is our domestic obligation of saving lives and mitigating the losses to the citizens of our state during events such as the Lincoln County tornado,” said Maj. Gen. Max Haston, Tennessee adjutant general. “The seamless operation between the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and the Tennessee National Guard gives us a distinct advantage in response operations not enjoyed by some states. I am very proud of the men and women who serve and demonstrate the professionalism I witnessed during my visit to the disaster site today.”
Haston and Gov. Bill Haslam visited the disaster site on April 30 to obtain an aerial and ground perspective of the damage inflicted in southern Tennessee.
Staff Sgt. Eric Heitz, a team leader with the 253rd, coordinated efforts with Graves and emergency management personnel to provide a thoroughly-planned search pattern of areas where the storm damage was most extreme.
The teams were well prepared to remain self sufficient for upwards of three days and traverse the dangerous debris ravaged area using Humvees to reach citizens and homes in the tornado’s path.
Radio communications were established among the supporting National Guard personnel as well as with civilian emergency responders in the incident area established by Lincoln County officials.
Cooperation between the military personnel and multiple response agencies from across the region was quickly established even as threatening weather conditions continued to plague the area, search and rescue operations and wellness checks continued into the late afternoon of the first day following the storm.
The mission of the Tennessee soldiers was conducted over a widespread area.
Based upon the size of the tornado and the distance it traveled, many damaged or destroyed homes needed to be reached to ensure the welfare of those living in the area.
Beyond the requirements of the mission, National Guard members often spoke of bringing a sense of hope to the area by their contribution. Although military members knew they could not fully ease the massive loss to members impacted in the community, they all desired to do their best to ease the suffering of their fellow Tennesseans with their sense of duty in this vital mission.