News: Guard responds immediately after tornadoes
Story by Spc. Brandy Mort
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Before the first winds crossed the Commonwealth of Kentucky March 2, the Kentucky National Guard made preparations to keep its citizen-soldiers safe and ready to assist in the event local officials would request assistance.
Once the sun rose March 3, the need for Kentucky’s Guardsmen was evident across more than 40 of the 120 counties. From the sky, in a Kentucky Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, Kentucky’s Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson surveyed the damage and visited with residents in the small community of East Bernstadt, Ky., located in Laurel County.
“I’ve never seen anything as devastating as I saw today in this county,” said Abramson. “I’m very proud of the Kentucky National Guard and how quickly they respond to these types of crisis’ occur.”
According to local officials Kentucky soldiers responded quickly following Friday’s storms.
“The deployment of the National Guard was one of the most timely deployments of Guardsmen I’ve ever seen,” said Kentucky State Trooper Capt. Scott Miller, London Post 11. “The soldiers were ready to go within hours of the disaster.”
Approximately 40 citizen-soldiers assigned to the 623rd Field Artillery Batteries, many who live locally to the East Bernstadt area reported for duty immediately after the storm clouds dissipated.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Matlock, Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery (HIMARS), said it was heartbreaking to see the people of his community outside what is left of their houses.
“Unfortunately, you can’t fight mother nature,” he said.
But Matlock and the other volunteers were able to provide assistance to local authorities by pulling security, clearing debris, manning checkpoints and patrolling damaged areas.
“It’s an excellent service we have,” Matlock said of the Guard’s ability to provide assistance during disaster relief. “If it happened to me, I’d be grateful for this help we are giving.”
The Kentucky Guard has 220 soldiers supporting relief efforts across Johnson, Laurel, Magoffin, Menifee and Morgan counties. Ten Kentucky Counties declared states of emergency after Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear declared a statewide emergency Friday.
According to Kentucky Emergency Management, there were 13 reported tornadoes in Kentucky March 2.