By Cotton Puryear, Virginia National GuardNovember 1, 2012
ONANCOCK, Va. (Nov. 1, 2012) -- Virginia National Guard Soldiers trudged through high water and cut trees to clear a path for two rescue missions that transported seven adults and one child to safety at two locations Tuesday, on Cattail Road in the Mears, Va., area.
The rescue mission took place one day after another high water transport required carrying a citizen who was unable to walk more than 200 yards through chest-high water.
"I was very pleased to see our Soldiers cautiously working their way through high water and being mindful of downed power lines, but also aggressively and safely clearing a path to rescue these citizens in need," said Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Green, senior enlisted leader of the Virginia National Guard. "The training these Soldiers have received over the years paid off today." Green had been visiting the Soldiers and joined them on the mission.
Virginia State Police had asked the Soldiers to conduct health and welfare checks at two locations they had not been able to reach. At the first location, the Soldiers had to cut through trees to enable their medium tactical truck access to the house where a family of five, including a young child, needed assistance to leave their house that was surrounded by high water.
At the second location, Soldiers had to trudge through two miles of high water, cutting trees as they went, but unable to get their truck to the house where a husband and wife needed evacuation. Using the family's boat, the Soldiers guided them about half a mile through the high water to the truck for evacuation.
Both groups were evacuated to family members whose homes were not threatened by high water.
A team consisting of Capt. Clint Harris, commander of the Martinsville-based 1173rd Transportation Company; Staff Sgt. Thomas Edwards and Pfc. Johnathan Mullen of the 1173rd; and Sgt. Daniel Robinson, Spc. Allen McFarland, Spc. Nicolas Graziano and Spc. James Napier of the Bowling Green-based 189th Engineer Company, conducted the rescue mission Oct. 30. The 1173rd has a detachment based in Onancock.
On Oct. 28, a team of six Soldiers in two Humvees rescued five citizens stranded by high water. The team consisted of Sgt. Donald Dale, Sgt. Andrew McElwain, Sgt. Daniel Corbin and Spc. Steven Madrid from the 189th Engineer Company and Spc. Lamarquis Douglas and Pfc. Andrea Wilson from the 1173rd Transportation Company. McElwain drove their Humvee as close as possible to the house where the citizens were in need of rescue, and Dale led them out of the house to the Humvee. One of the family members was unable to walk, so Dale carried her on his back for more than 200 yards through chest-deep water to the Humvee. Once on board the vehicles, the Soldiers evacuated the family to Virginia State Police.
The Soldiers had been on duty since Sunday and conducted numerous high water rescue missions to transport 34 citizens to shelters and transported six firefighters.
"I'm exceptionally proud of the Soldiers from the 1173rd Transportation Company, 189th Engineer Company, and the Virginia Defense Force, who served under my command during Hurricane Sandy," Harris said. "Their efforts in protecting the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia in the Eastern Shore area have been above and beyond the call of duty."
Harris commended them for always being on standby for short notice missions, maintaining preparedness and training on tasks to be ready for response. The Soldiers safely executed more than 30 different missions in support of civilian authorities on the Eastern Shore which included high water rescue, ensuring mobility through debris removal and reconnaissance patrols.
"The efforts of the soldiers on this mission are truly commendable and are a great credit to the Virginia National Guard," he said.
Virginia National Guard personnel began assisting Virginia State Police and local emergency response organizations late in the day Oct. 29, at numerous locations across Virginia with approximately 650 Guard personnel were staged and ready to respond.