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    West Virginia National Guard Aviators honored as “Kentucky Colonels”

    Members of the West Virginia National Guard honored as “Kentucky Colonels”

    Photo By Edwin Wriston | Brig. Gen. Brian Wertzler, Deputy Adjutant General of the Kentucky National Guard paid...... read more read more



    Story by Edwin Wriston 

    West Virginia National Guard

    Members of the West Virginia National Guard’s Company C, 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion, and Company B, 1-224th Security and Support Aviation Battalion were visited today at the Army Aviation Support Facility #1 in Williamstown, West Virginia, by Brig. Gen. Brian Wertzler, Deputy Adjutant General of the Kentucky National Guard, to pay thanks for their efforts in response to the historic flooding that devastated areas of Eastern Kentucky in July of this year.

    In late July 2022, the State of Kentucky was rocked with massive flash flooding that consumed entire communities, washing out roads and bridges and stranding hundreds of citizens and families deep in mountainous hollows with no way to escape the rising waters. A massive response and rescue effort was launched, including ground-based, swift-water, and aerial operations.

    With all the military and civilian aerial assets in Kentucky stretched to their operational capacities, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear reached out to West Virginia Governor Jim Justice to ask for support. Immediately, aircrew and aircraft from the 2-104th and 1-224th were deployed to assist.

    Upon notification by Governor Justice’s office, WVNG aircrews were in the air and headed to Kentucky within two hours.

    While deployed, WVNG aircrews flew dozens of missions providing aerial reconnaissance for ground-based rescue operations helping to locate stranded citizens and guide responders to their locations. Additionally, the aircrews performed 19 hoist operations, hovering and lifting those trapped by rapidly rising waters into their UH-60L/HH-60M Blackhawk and UH-72A Lakota aircraft from dry ground and rooftops. During operations, West Virginia aircrews rescued 23 citizens and 3 family pets.

    “July 27, 2022 was a rough day for our state,” stated Wertzler. “That morning, it started raining and it kept raining. Ultimately 6-10 inches of intense rainfall over mountainous terrain resulted in a 1,000-year flood, leaving eastern Kentucky in bad shape. We deployed all our aircraft and quickly realized that we needed more assets due to the epic scope of the event. So, we immediately reached out to our familiar friends, and you were there.”

    He continued, “Within just a few short hours, you were there. We live by the mantra, ‘always ready, always there,’ and in that desperate moment of need, you exemplified that motto,” he added. “You saved lives, and you stood shoulder to shoulder, aircraft to aircraft with us in rough weather conditions, in dangerous terrain, and you put your lives on the line to save others.”

    During a brief ceremony, each member of the aircrew who flew missions in Kentucky were awarded the title, “Kentucky Colonel.” The title is the highest title of honor issued by the Governor of Kentucky and is in recognition of an individual’s noteworthy accomplishments and outstanding service to the state and nation.

    “Governor (Andy) Beshear and our Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. (Hal) Lamberton and all our leadership and the citizens of Kentucky thank you for your bravery and your exemplary dedication to duty”, stated Wertzler.

    Lt. Col. Harold Nicely, West Virginia State Aviation Officer, was appreciative of the visit from Wertzler, and for the recognition for his flight crews and the mission they performed.

    “The best thing about being in the National Guard is being able to immediately respond to emergencies in our own and neighboring states, such as we did for Kentucky,” said Nicely. “Relationships built over decades within the aviation community helped make our deployment a seamless and fluid operation and being able to help your neighbors and your extended family is a true blessing. I am incredibly proud of all our soldiers and support staff that provided support for this mission, and their continuing selfless devotion to our Guard.”

    Wertzler was joined on his visit by other members of the Kentucky National Guard’s leadership team, including Col. John Harvey, J-3/5/7, Lt. Col. Curtis Persinger, Director of Military Support, and Lt. Col. Stephen Martin, commander of the 751st Troop Command.

    Members of the West Virginia Army National Guard who received recognition as “Kentucky Colonel” include Chief Warrant Officers Brandon Koon, Steven Moore, Joseph Copley, Casey Dunfee, Julian Portillo, Matthew Whitt, Christopher Springg, James Blume, Staff Sergeant Benjamin Foster, and Sergeants Alex Santana, Curtis Peyatt, Michael Isner, Timothy Curry, Matthew Riggs and Troy Martin.



    Date Taken: 11.29.2022
    Date Posted: 11.29.2022 13:53
    Story ID: 434137
    Location: WILLIAMSTOWN, WV, US

    Web Views: 333
    Downloads: 0