Kentucky National Guard troops provide security in wake of tornado

Story by Staff Sgt. Steve Tressler, 138th Fires Brigade Public Affairs Officer

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2nd Lieutenant Sean Jones meets with news media and local authorities in LaRue County, Ky., regarding the Kentucky National Guard mission following the tornado that struck the community of Hodgenville. (Photo by Sgt. Scott Raper, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs)

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Spc. William Clark and Sgt. Mark Boggs, Charlie Battery, 2/138th Fires Brigade, patrol a neighborhood in the city of Hodgenville. The Soldiers were called to support local authorities in LaRue County, Ky., following severe weather that affected the community. (Sgt. Scott Raper, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs)

HODGENVILLE, Ky. – It only took about the same amount of time for a commercial to run on television, but it was long enough for some residents in LaRue County to see their lives turned upside down.

It turned out to be an EF-2 tornado that did all the damage, ripping through Hodgenville, Ky. on Wednesday, destroying homes and barns throughout the community.

“This was a skipping tornado,” said John Gordon, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service. “It wasn’t continuously in touch with the ground. It skipped along. In some areas where it came down, it got real low to the ground and did significant damage.”

The situation was bad enough that they called Frankfort for assistance in keeping looters away from the damaged homes.

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Members of Charlie Battery, 2/138th Fires Brigade provided roving security patrols in LaRue County, Ky., following severe weather that affected the community of Hodgenville. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Tressler, 138th Fires Brigade, Kentucky National Guard)

Enter the Kentucky National Guard’s 138th Fires Brigade and 2nd Lieutenant Sean Jones.

Jones, a native of Louisville, got a call at about 1:30 pm Thursday afternoon and was on the scene with a dozen Soldiers for the first shift by 5 p.m. to assist the residents hardest hit in LaRue County.

A lot of the relief workers, police and rescue crews seemed to feel a sense of relief to see the Guard members.  Some of even shook hands and said so to the Soldiers when they rolled in with their vehicles.

“The Guard being here means safety,” said Mayor Terry L. Cruse.  “”These people have lost a lot, and to have the security the Soldiers provide, its one less thing they have to worry about.”

The mayor was in a sweatshirt, and traveling on foot in the devastated areas consoling some of the residents of his town, along with Police Chief Steve Johnson who was nearby doing the same.

“This type of disaster is very personal to me,” said Jones “my parents home was hit by a tornado in 1996, and anytime I can serve my fellow Kentuckians in need is what the Guard is about.”

Thirty troops from the Kentucky National Guard were activated to assist police and help deter looters overnight, as many of the homes were torn wide open.

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Sgt. Bryan Brown and Spc. William Clark, both of Charlie Battery, 2/138th Fires Brigade check the paperwork of a resident of Hodgenville returning to their damaged home. The Soldiers were called to support local authorities in LaRue County, Ky., following severe weather that affected the community. (Sgt. Scott Raper, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs)

At least two people had been arrested for looting on Thursday.

Jones reported there were no issues overnight Thursday as the Guardsmen set up vehicle security points and ran multiple roving foot patrols to enhance property security. The troops matched drivers license addresses to the residents’ addresses, in relation to the neighborhood they were trying to enter, and then they provided escorts as well.

“The police department here is fantastic,” said Jones.  “They’re just undermanned for something like this.”

“It means a lot to us,” said Cruse.  “The Soldiers have a presence and they take care of business and we all appreciate it.”

The 138th’s mission in LaRue County is expected to end by this weekend.

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