Reserve Soldier's experience brings joint training closer to home
June 7, 2013
"I lost half of my roof at home, and the neighborhood was pretty hurt. We didn't lose everything, but we lost a lot."
Those are the words of Spc. Axel Lopez, a horizontal construction engineer from the 766th Engineer Company out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., recalling the aftermath of hurricane Jeanne that hit his family's Lake Worth, Fla., home in September 2004.
Hurricane Jeanne was the deadliest hurricane in the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season and the 12th deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record. It killed more than 3,000 people in its wake and caused more than $7 billion in damage.
"That was the year we had six hurricanes back to back," said Lopez. "My community was out of electricity for 18 days straight because of Jeanne. I also lost my balcony and all my fencing around the house. It was a devastating time for my family and my community."
A little less than nine years later, Lopez, with other Soldiers from the 766th Engineer Company, 841st Engineer Battalion, 926th Engineer Brigade and the 316th Engineer Company, 844th Engineer Battalion, 926th Engineer Brigade, participated in the Ardent Sentry exercise May 17-22, 2013, at Camp Blanding, Fla.
The focus of Ardent Sentry was to conduct Defense Support of Civil Authorities operations in which the Reserve Component trained with other government and civilian agencies across the nation to prepare and respond to simulated natural disasters.
For this exercise the 766th Engineer Company sent a squad of Soldiers to integrate with the 316th Engineer Company at the Camp Blanding site where they performed route clearance and search and rescue missions.
Lopez said it is important training for us now that Reserve units are starting to focus on helping out during natural disasters. "I live in Florida, and we have hurricanes all the time in which our community is affected," he said.
According to Lopez, his unit has really good equipment to help out with natural disasters, but they usually rarely get to use it. "It is a great feeling knowing I can actually do something about it instead of waiting for someone else to come and help," he said. "The Army is here not just for war."
"The National Guard usually gets the spotlight on natural disasters, but it is not about who gets credit, it is about taking care of your community," Lopez said. "We are all Army. The more practice we have like this the better it is going to be when we get called up. We train like we fight, and we fight like we train. Rather than being on the sidelines, I want to be part of the solution."