LETCHER COUNTY, Ky. — As flood waters rose in Eastern Kentucky in late July and early August, the call for assistance went out to the National Guard.
In the hours following the first rainfall, hundreds of Kentucky Guard Soldiers provided manpower for rescue operations, supply distribution and security.
Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Dyal from 577th Engineer Company, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, was eager to answer that call for help. He has worked at several points of distribution, or POD, sites, ensuring residents receive water and supplies. He has been wearing multiple hats while in charge of a large POD at Letcher County Central High School in Whitesburg.
This mission was particularly important to Dyal since he graduated from Letcher County Central High School. He has numerous contacts in the area which has enabled him to provide maximum assistance to the populace and support troops assigned to missions there.
"I know the area very well," said Dyal. "I know where those hard-to-reach areas were, so I could send my mobile team up and prioritize better. Along with working with the emergency director and the county judge, we could point out and carry out supply missions and find people that hadn't had contact in a few days faster than what normally would have happened if we had done it in sectors."
Dyal's primary mission is moving the PODs away from the high schools to alternate locations and helping community leaders through the continued flood response.
"I'm working directly with the country judge, the emergency management team and the sheriff to get the community back to a self-sufficient state," he said. "My goal and mission are specifically to reach self-sustainment in the shortest amount possible and keep our presence to a minimum."
Dyal also said that getting the local school back in order will help re-establish normalcy in the community.
"I was incredibly impressed with his professionalism, knowledge, critical thinking and interpersonal skills," said Col. Tim Starke, 75th Troop Command commander and Director of Operation for the Kentucky National Guard, upon meeting Dyal.
Starke was in the area surveying damage caused by the flood and was proud of Dyal's ability to take on as much responsibility as he has.
While visiting units on the ground, Dyal's command sergeant major made it a point to see him personally.
"He is resilient, mission-focused, and without a doubt a selfless service leader," said Command Sgt. Maj. Aaron Lester, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Operations Sergeant Major. "Most evenings, he spent his time assisting his family in the area recover from the damages they sustained during the flooding and coordinating missions for the next day with Soldiers serving in the area."
He went on to say the Dyal was instrumental to the Kentucky National Guard's success in Letcher County with his daily coordination between local officials and the Guard. He was able to meet their needs and support PODs, including ensuring that supplies were being delivered to areas that could not get out due to roads being inaccessible.
Dyal has served in the Kentucky Guard since 2013 and currently lives in Richmond with his wife. While Dyal and his wife were safe, he has several relatives whose lives have been impacted by the floods.
"My grandparents, uncles, aunts and pretty much that whole side of my family live in Letcher County and they had their road completely wiped out in four different locations," he said.
Despite the damaged roads, he says he's glad that no one in his family was injured and that he was able to help them.
Thanks to the hard work of Dyal, his unit and the National Guard, the people in Letcher County and surrounding areas are on the way to recovery.