ARLINGTON, Va. (May 21, 2013) -- Nearly 250 members of the Oklahoma National Guard were assisting Tuesday with victim search and security in Moore, Okla., where a monster tornado left at least 51 dead, including 20 children, authorities said.
The twister hit Monday about 3:15 P.M. (CDT), when children were still in two elementary schools in the Oklahoma City suburb.
The tornado, packing winds of up to 200 mph, tore off the roof of Plaza Towers Elementary School and pulverized walls. Volunteers joined first responders who helped rescue children and staff from the devastation, the Associated Press reported.
Gov. Mary Fallin activated the Airmen and Soldiers, May 20. Among those responding was the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron from nearby Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City.
In a video interview, 2nd Lt. Gabriel Bird said the unit members carried thermal imaging gear to help locate those buried in rubble.
"Hopefully, we'll find survivors," Bird said.
Members also carried multi-band radios to communicate with ground and aircraft crews and basic medical supplies, Bird said.
"We're a pretty new unit so we haven't supported any state emergencies," Bird said. However, he noted that many members are veterans who themselves have supported other disaster-recovery operations.