Missouri Guard Begins Support Operations in Joplin

CARTHAGE, Mo., May 23, 2011 — About 140 Mis­souri Nation­al Guard troops are work­ing under the orders of Gov. Jay Nixon to assist local author­i­ties after a tor­na­do ripped through the city of Joplin, Mo., yes­ter­day.
Guards­men are assist­ing in search and res­cue mis­sions in sup­port of local author­i­ties, and are expect­ed to con­duct a num­ber of mis­sions in the upcom­ing days, includ­ing emer­gency route clear­ance, com­mu­ni­ca­tions sup­port, door-to-door safe­ty vis­its and secu­ri­ty, offi­cials said.

Joplin, Mo.
Mis­souri Nation­al Guard sol­diers with the 294th Engi­neer Com­pa­ny work search and res­cue mis­sions in Joplin, Mo., hours after a dead­ly tor­na­do passed through the city May 22, 2011.
Mis­souri Nation­al Guard pho­to by Ann Keyes
Click to enlarge

“As soon as we heard the news of the tor­na­dos, the Mis­souri Nation­al Guard began mobi­liza­tion activ­i­ties,” said Army Maj. Gen. Stephen L. Dan­ner, adju­tant gen­er­al. “Your Mis­souri Nation­al Guard is bring­ing expe­ri­enced cit­i­zen-sol­diers and lead­ers to pro­vide the best sup­port we have to our neigh­bors in Joplin.”

Among those respond­ing are sol­diers of the 117th Engi­neer Team, of Mon­ett, and 294th Engi­neer Com­pa­ny, of Carthage and Ander­son. Addi­tion­al­ly, a Joint Task Force Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Kit out of Jef­fer­son City is en route to assist local author­i­ties.

The troops are part of a task force orga­nized under the 203rd Engi­neer Bat­tal­ion and is using the Carthage Armory to stage and deploy troops to Joplin. The Mis­souri Nation­al Guard has a total force of more than 11,500 Guard mem­bers who are ready to respond, offi­cials said.

Army Spc. Daniel Brown of the 117th Engi­neer Team said his unit was the first to respond and worked through­out the night.

“We got the call while doing our annu­al train­ing in near­by Ander­son, and we imme­di­ate­ly packed up and went straight to Joplin,” he said. Along the way, he added, he saw over­turned trucks at the inter­sec­tion of high­ways 71 and 44, and his unit stopped to check a gas sta­tion for peo­ple who might have need­ed help.

“We moved on the Joplin, where we spent the night at the Wal­mart and a local sports store search­ing the rub­ble,” Brown said. “This is some­thing nobody wants to see, and thank­ful­ly we haven’t need­ed to save any­one yet. But we’ve got a lot of good knowl­edge and train­ing to help. This is our job, and Joplin is our back­yard.”

The 117th Engi­neer Team has spe­cial equip­ment, and the sol­diers have exten­sive train­ing and exper­tise to con­duct search and res­cue mis­sions. The sol­diers are work­ing 12-hour shifts.

Army Spc. Richard Stotts of the 294th Engi­neer Com­pa­ny said he was dri­ving with his girl­friend when the storms hit. After tak­ing shel­ter and mak­ing sure his fam­i­ly was safe, Stotts imme­di­ate­ly began help­ing. He pulled three peo­ple out of the local AT&T build­ing when he got the call that he was mobi­lized.

For Stotts, the tran­si­tion from cit­i­zen help­ing cit­i­zens to sol­dier help­ing cit­i­zens was seam­less.

“This is what I signed up for — to help peo­ple,” he said.

The 294th Engi­neer Com­pa­ny worked through­out the night and is sup­port­ing the 117th and local author­i­ties.

Sup­port­ing peo­ple through­out the area is the main mis­sion, said Army Maj. Michael Brown, exec­u­tive offi­cer for the 203rd Engi­neer Bat­tal­ion.

“We are here to sup­port the cit­i­zens of Joplin any way we can,” he said. “Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones in this dis­as­ter. The res­i­dents here are our fel­low cit­i­zens, neigh­bors and friends. We will remain here as long as they need us.”

Missouri’s sol­diers and air­men will con­tin­ue sup­port­ing local author­i­ties until released by the gov­er­nor, offi­cials said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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