By Sgt. 1st Class Anna DooDecember 30, 2015
ROSWELL, N.M. (Dec. 30, 2015) -- One of the missions currently being performed by members of the New Mexico National Guard is the transportation of Roswell, New Mexico, citizens in need of dialysis treatments.
A blizzard blanketed much of the state, Dec. 26-27, and deposited inches - to feet of snow - amid gusting winds in the eastern portion of the state causing massive snowdrifts. The main east-west interstate was shut down and most of the surface streets were blanketed, rendering them impassable.
Soldiers, of the 717th Brigade Support Battalion, based in Roswell, responded immediately with various types of support for their local community. The Soldiers used military vehicles to get to stranded motorists, helped pull disabled vehicles back onto streets, and dug out front doors to homes.
One life-saving mission includes the transportation of citizens needing dialysis treatment at the Fresenius Medical Care Center. On Dec. 28, the Soldiers picked up six patients and three healthcare workers at their homes, brought them to the facility, and returned them to their residences in military light medium tactical vehicles, or LMTVs. At least four patients were assisted, Dec. 29, mostly in high mobility multipurpose wheeled-vehicles, or HMMWVs.
Pfc. Johnny Estrada, a wheeled-vehicle mechanic with the 613th Support Company (Forward), has served his mission since it began.
"I think it's awesome they are able to have people like us to call upon and that we have Soldiers here willing to use their time to help people we don't really even know," he said. "One of the females we drove had missed a couple of appointments already, so if it wasn't for us she would have missed another. What we're doing is a good thing."
Estrada went on to recount a couple challenges the team had to overcome. He mentioned the road conditions, abandoned vehicles and assisting patients get from their homes to the waiting military vehicles. He said one citizen they transported today is wheelchair-bound but between Estrada and Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Vaillancourt, they were able to assist her into the HMMWV with no issues.
Vaillancourt, an information technology specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 717th Brigade Support Battalion, was born and raised in Roswell. He said as soon as he realized the National Guard was placed on alert by the governor of New Mexico, he volunteered to help.
"The community has really taken to us," he said. "They were all helpful and thanking us for what we were doing."