By Maj. Tamara SpicerMay 25, 2011
CARTHAGE, Mo. (May 24, 2011) -- The Missouri National Guard continues to work in support of tornado relief operations in Joplin on order from Gov. Jay Nixon.
With continued rainfall Tuesday, the Guard task force conducted operations in Joplin with about 220 Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen spread over the affected areas, said task force operations officer Maj. Michael Seek with the 35th Engineer Brigade.
"At this point, our concern is the safety of the citizens of Joplin," Seek said. "This is an important mission. Our goal is to help support the local first responders as they continue to look for victims of the storm."
The Guardsmen have conducted a number of missions in support of local authorities, including search and rescue and communications support. A number of missions expected in the upcoming days include security, emergency route clearance and door-to-door safety visits.
Throughout Monday afternoon and into the early morning hours of Tuesday, the 117th Engineer Team (Asphalt) conducted search and rescue missions in several blocks along Connecticut St. and Rangeline St.
For Spc. Donald Lucas, the mission is all about double- and triple-checking every pile of rubble.
"We did the best we can do wherever the local authorities need us," said Lucas. "We just keep thinking and focusing on finding anybody and not leaving anyone behind."
Another part of their mission is to be each others' moral support, said Lucas.
"A lot of us have never seen anything like this before; it's different then what you see on TV," he said. "We make sure we all pull through it. We're here to do a job and we'll do our best to get it done."
Communications are also an important undertaking for the Soldiers of the 35th Engineer Brigade and Company A, 935th Aviation Support Battalion during continued operations throughout the area. As normal communications assets remain damaged in Joplin, these Soldiers make sure the Joint Task Force Communications Kit is properly maintained.
"We're here to help in any way necessary," said Sgt. 1st Class Leonard Morrow. "To help our neighbors, community and state, our Soldiers must have continuous and up-to-date information from our operations center as well as with the local authorities."
The kit and radios help every Soldier and Airmen successfully coordinate every mission.
Missions like those given early Tuesday morning, as members of the 1139th Military Police Company and 294th Engineer Company (Equipment Support) set up check points with local law enforcement to help protect residents from unstable areas as well as allow local first responders to focus primarily on their search and rescue missions.
Pfc. Jesus Ramos, with the 1139th Military Police Company, said his unit was completing two weeks of flood operations in New Madrid when they got the call to go to Joplin.
"We heard the news Sunday night and were ready to roll," said Ramos, who was manning a check point by St. John's Hospital. "I think our presence gives people a sense of relief. That being here helps lifts their spirits even a little, knowing the Missouri National Guard is here and there are people to help."
Missouri's Soldiers and Airmen will continue working in support of local authorities until released by the governor, officials said.
Units supporting the tornado response include:
-- Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 35th Engineer Brigade, of Fort Leonard Wood;
-- Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 203rd Engineer Battalion, of Joplin;
-- 3-135th Aviation Battalion, of Lebanon, Mo.;
-- Company A, 935th Aviation Support Battalion, of Aurora, Mo.;
-- 175th Military Police Battalion, Columbia, Mo.;
-- 294th Engineer Company (Equipment Support), of Anderson and Carthage, Mo.;
-- 276th Engineer Company (Vertical), of Pierce City, Mo.;
-- Forward Support Company, 203rd Engineer Battalion, of Joplin;
-- 1139th Military Police Company, Harrisonville, Mo.;
-- 117th Engineer Team (Asphalt), of Monett, Mo.;
-- 70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment of Jefferson City, Mo.;
-- Joint Operations Center at Joint Force Headquarters in Jefferson City.
(Maj. Tamara Spicer serves with the Missouri National Guard Public Affairs Office.)