HOUSTON -- Army Reserve Soldiers are using helicopters and tactical vehicles to rescue residents of Houston communities stranded by rising flood waters following Hurricane Harvey. In addition, they are housing over 400 displaced residents and local emergency management personnel in four different Army Reserve Centers.
Soldiers with the 453rd Inland Cargo Transfer Company have been conducting recovery operations since Sunday for displaced citizens in Katy, Texas, and neighboring areas west of Houston.
"We were called in to support an EMS task force in Katy," said 1st Lt. Kristina Samuel, 453th ICTC commander and Houston resident.
"We received information from one of our unit's officers, who is also a policeman, regarding stranded families which led us from transporting a family of seven and their pets, to several truckloads of other displaced families," Samuel added.
The transportation teams and crews endured continual rainfall and heavily flooded areas during their operations.
"It was a ramp-up-and-go relief effort," said Sgt. Justin Speight, an automated logistical non-commissioned officer and Houston native. "I got the call and took off. I was ready to go because I knew there were people that were worse off than me, and I wanted to help out others that needed it."
For some of the Soldiers, the devastation of Hurricane Harvey was personal.
"I grew up in Katy. These are my neighbors," said Sgt. Kenneth Perry, 453rd maintenance platoon sergeant and Katy native. "I actually recovered people that I knew. It really hit home for me."
Residents of Katy were happy to see a familiar face among the Army Reserve Soldiers providing assistance. "It put a big smile on their faces knowing that I went to high school here, and now I'm back here helping," Perry said.
"We evacuated a home of cancer patients ranging from infants to elderly," said Perry. "We were able to transport around 40 personnel to a local high school that was housing displaced personnel."
Support from the Army Reserve continues as more Soldiers and units are activated and sent to the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The Army Reserve's 644th Transportation Company is providing shelter to displaced civilians and Soldiers in the North Houston area. The North Houston Army Reserve Center is providing many amenities and necessities to those in need.
"We opened our doors to our civilians, Soldiers and their family members," said Darrell Bell, 644th unit administrator and facility coordinator. "We're here to take care of them. We have cots and meals available."
Soldiers and staff of the reserve center came out in force to support their comrades-in-arms and the local neighboring community. Some full-time staff were displaced by Hurricane Harvey and are also residing in the reserve center. Others stayed on-site to volunteer their assistance, even though they suffered no losses in the catastrophic event.
The local community brought in several items for the displaced. Volunteers provided breakfast, lunch and other food at various times throughout the day.
"The community pulled together and brought in clothes, shoes, blankets, diapers and non-perishable items," said Wright.
Army Reserve flight paramedics assigned to C Company, 7-158 General Services Aviation Battalion rescued a mother and child from rising floodwater.
The Soldiers, with assistance of two paramedics from Conroe, Texas, rushed the mother and child to safety in a medevac helicopter.
Conroe is located about 20 miles north of Houston and four additional people were rescued there by Army Reserve Soldiers from the 1-158th Assault Helicopter Battalion. The Conroe sewer water treatment facility needed aerial evacuation when rising flood waters on the road to the plant made vehicle and boat rescue impossible. Local aviation assets were unavailable, prompting officials to contact the Army Reserve for assistance.
An Immediate Response Authority request from Phillip Dupuis, Conroe police chief, was answered by an Army Reserve UH-60 Blackhawk launched with Conroe EMTs.
QUARTERMASTERS TO THE RESCUE
In Aldine, Texas, about 15 miles north of Houston, the 79th Quartermaster Company and local fire department used military wheeled vehicles with water fording capabilities to transport over 500 people and 50 pets to designated safe areas.
The majority of evacuees consisted of children, elderly and disabled citizens located within a five mile radius of the Army Reserve Center.
Army Reserve Soldiers weathered heavy rains and waded through the flooded streets of Houston to transport relief personnel and critical supplies to a Houston federal detention center in the wake of Hurricane Harvey Monday.
The U.S. Army Reserve's 300th Sustainment Brigade, 957th Quartermaster Company, and the 223rd Support Maintenance Company were on the road within an hour of receiving their mission.
"They really helped us out a lot," said Michael Greene, an associate warden at the federal detention center in Houston.
The Army Reserve has responded to numerous requests utilizing the Army Reserve's Immediate Response Authority, per the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, while providing trained and ready Army Reserve Soldiers for relief efforts.
(Editor's note: Sgt. Jonathan Fernandez with the 204th Public Affairs Detachment and Capt. Chad Nixon of the U.S. Army Reserve Command contributed to this report.)