Warrant officer class honors, helps tornado victims
May 26, 2011
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- More than 50 warrant officer candidates dedicated their class sign May 20 to citizens of Shoal Creek Valley, Ala., one of the many communities affected by the April tornadoes.
Each warrant officer candidate class has a sign that represents its mascot and class. The purpose of the sign is to provide the class each day with motivation and promote esprit de corps in order to keep it focused as a team, according to CW2 Brad Carpenter, U.S. Army Warrant Officer Career College and 1st Warrant Office Company training, advising and counseling officer.
Several months ago, the class was collaborating on ideas of what its mascot should be. The class decided on the "Tornadoes," which was a first in 1st WOCS, and the motto of "A force to be reckoned with, sir!"
Not long after the class decided on the mascot and motto, tornadoes devastated the state of Alabama. The class soon changed their motto to, "Stand through the storm, sir!"
"The change in the motto was to provide inspiration for the people in Alabama who lost so much," said Carpenter.
During the aftermath of the tornadoes, the class took particular interest in the town of Shoal Creek Valley. Carpenter visited the community during the cleanup efforts and showed the class photographs of the devastation.
The class soon learned of Vernon White, Shoal Creek Valley Fire Rescue chief who spent the day of the tornadoes cleaning up debris and was caught in the actual tornado himself.
While out trying to help others, White was swept up in a tornado and tossed 20 feet into a river, landing upside down. White narrowly escaped death by releasing his seatbelt and swimming out the window.
White was on hand at the dedication ceremony Friday on behalf of Shoal Creek Valley. He spoke to Soldiers and told his tale.
"We lost 14 members of our community, our own home and one fire department completely, with two pumpers and additional damage on two more trucks," White said. "But I am a true believes in God, and I thank God for letting me be here today. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be. This experience has made my faith a whole lot stronger."
"We stand in the storm with God, he is our protector," added Linda White, Vernon's wife.
The sign was dedicated to the citizens of Shoal Creek Valley and will be placed in their hometown upon graduation.
The "Tornadoes" additionally donated a portion of the funds raised for class expenditures towards the disaster relief efforts, totaling $1,690.