By Maj. Kurt RauschenbergNovember 20, 2018
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - On the day Sgt. 1st Class Quintin C. Steele was promoted to his current rank, he took time to speak on the overwhelming support his unit provided him at a time when it was needed most.
Steele, an intelligence specialist with the 110th Information Operations Battalion, joined the Md. Guard in 2011 after serving in the U.S. Army since 2003.
The day Hurricane Michael made landfall would become a moment in time Steele would always remember when his unit became his family.
A Category 4 hurricane when it made landfall near Mexico Beach, Fla., the storm affected thousands in the state's panhandle region - including Steele's mother and 9-year-old niece who lived in nearby Panama City. The storm left them trapped in their house with power and phone lines down.
Steele's mother, Joyce L. Davidson, described what she experienced as the worst storm she's ever seen.
"Trees were snapping every 10 seconds or so, and we felt like it would be the last thing we'd hear, said Davidson. It looked like a warzone afterwards."
Meanwhile in Md., Steele was beside himself in anguish.
"Initially, I couldn't do anything but panic, said Steele. It took days to finally get some indication that my family was even alive... it was driving me crazy."
Army Lt. Col. Stephen P. Gerber, a senior intelligence officer, said he noticed the stress Steele was under, even if he was reticent to ask for help.
"Even though I was going through so much at the time it was tough for me to ask for help, said Steele. I'm still a senior non-commissioned officer after all."
Gerber stepped in and asked for that help on Steele's behalf.
Unit members and volunteers rapidly responded, raising hundreds of dollars within hours and donating clothes for the family and toys for his niece.
"I've never been prouder to serve in the Md. Guard, Steele said during his promotion ceremony. The support kept pouring in and I couldn't have been more grateful to have my guard family."
Steele's brother, Army Sgt. 1st Class Joshua J. Keefer, with the Arizona Army National Guard, also spent hours trying to reach anyone who could go check on the family.
"The fire department couldn't reach the house because of the destruction from the hurricane, Keefer said."
The National Guard was the first to clear the area near Davidson's home. Guard members also made sure the family was safe and healthy.
"They provided us with military rations when we were out of food, Davidson said."
After dozens of calls went straight to voicemail, Steele was finally able to connect with his mother's neighbors, who communicated back to him that his family was alive and well. When the family finally reached Steele, Keefer immediately began helping his mother work through the emergency relief programs she could apply for to reconstruct their damaged home.
"Just as our water supply ran out, the streets finally seemed drive-able, and we were finally able to leave, Davison said. It took three days for the National Guard to clear the streets near my house and I will forever appreciate and support them."
Davidson was exhausted when she finally reached her son in Md. She recalled having a difficult time driving since her eye glasses were lost in the storm.
"We used some of the raised funds on an optometrist to get much needed glasses for the return drive, said Davidson."
Steele said he intends to keep serving with the Maryland Army Guard, but one day he'll no longer be in uniform. When that day comes, he plans to still find ways to support those who supported him in his time of need.
"After I eventually hang it up with the Guard, I still plan on supporting the military as a civilian employee, said Steele."
Steele joined because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, wanting to serve his country after seeing so many volunteers come together to help people impacted by the destruction of those attacks to the homeland.