WASHINGTON, Ill. (Dec. 2, 2013) -- Army Reserve Soldiers from the 724th Transportation Company were among the first to assist with recovery efforts in the aftermath of a deadly F4 tornado that ripped through Washington, Ill., on Nov. 17.

The 724th, located in Bartonville, Ill., used Immediate Response Authority to respond to a request from Washington Fire Chief John Meyers to help police with setting up blockades on roads leading in and out of the town.

The Stafford Act and DOD Directive 3025.18 authorize military commanders to use their Soldiers at the request of local authorities to aid in the recovery from a domestic natural disaster for up to 72 hours without an official mobilization order. The primary purpose of this response must be to save lives, prevent human suffering, and mitigate serious property damage.

"There were downed power lines and gas leaks and local authorities wanted to prevent traffic from going into those areas," said 1st Lt. La'Darrian Smith, commander of the 724th Transportation Company.

The unit quickly notified the chain of command and received approval to send a convoy of vehicles to Washington, which is located 15 miles northeast of Bartonville.

"I was impressed with the speed of communication to gain approval for this mission and our ability to pass updates up and down the chain of command," said Col. Jennifer Ryan, commander of the 206th Regional Support Group, Springfield, Ill.

Ryan, along with leadership from the 419th Movement Control Battalion from Bartonville, were also on site.

The 724th Soldiers used bobtail trucks and Humvees to set up blockades at four locations around Washington.

"We were shocked when we arrived on site," said Smith. "The town was devastated."

Smith worked with first responders inside the Emergency Operation Center on site and his team of 23 Soldiers supported local law enforcement until civil services arrived later in the evening and the 724th's help was deemed no longer needed.

"I honestly believe the 724th helped save lives," said Brig. Gen. Arlan DeBlieck, commanding general, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), Des Moines, Iowa. "They helped keep people off the roads in dangerous areas."

"Our Soldiers stepped up to fill a need for the town of Washington after a category four tornado went through causing extensive damage to the town," said Ryan. "The Soldiers were very excited to contribute and help those in need. I couldn't be more proud of the leadership's response and their ability to organize a 24-person team to support the mission."