MOORE, Okla., May 22, 2013 – Oklahoma National Guard Soldiers are assisting law enforcement officials and other responders in the wake of a deadly tornado that killed 24 people and flattened part of this Oklahoma City suburb, May 20.
The Oklahoma Guard’s 63rd Civil Support Team’s 22 Soldiers specialize in search and rescue operations, atmospheric monitoring for hazardous materials and searching for physical hazards such as live downed electrical lines. Many of the unit members have previously deployed and have responded to other natural disasters, including the search and rescue mission following a tornado in Piedmont, Okla., nearly two years ago.
But this mission has special meaning, as many of the Soldiers know people who have been directly affected by this disaster and some even live in the path of the tornado that struck here.
“We get to serve our community at home,” said Army Sgt. Warren Williams, a member of the 63rd CST. “There are a lot of other agencies coming from other locations, but this is personal for us. These are people we know. There are people in the unit who have been affected by this personally, so it’s satisfying to be out here helping our fellow neighbors.”
First responders from across the country have converged on Oklahoma City and Moore to assist with the search and recovery effort. The efforts of the Soldiers and first responders have resulted in more than 100 survivors being rescued from storm shelters where they sought refuge from the tornado.
Although the mission for the 63rd CST is far from complete, the commitment of service to community that has been demonstrated by the Oklahoma National Guard has greatly affected the success in the joint operation between military and local law enforcement officials here.
“We work with the National Guard all of the time; it’s a really good pairing,” said Dr. Joe Holley, head of Tennessee Task Force 1 and an emergency medical services physician. “The military is great at the logistics part of a mission, and we have some special capabilities … that tie together in order to get the job done.”