Recap: Kentucky Guardsmen assist in winter storm relief mission

Story by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

Staff Sgt. Steve Musgrave

Staff Sgt. Steve Musgrave helps a truck driver along I-24 in McCracken County. Musgrave is one of the soldiers from the Kentucky National Guard’s Co. A, 149th Brigade Support Battalion assisting motorists stranded during Winter Storm Thor. (Photo by Spec. Jeriel Clark, Kentucky National Guard)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — In arguably the worst winter since 2009, Kentucky National Guard troops recently played a crucial role in protecting the health, safety and welfare of their fellow citizens.  In the wake of heavy snows that began on March 5, hundreds of accidents and impassable conditions stranded an estimated 600 vehicles along I-24 and I-65 in Central Kentucky.  More than 150 Kentucky Guard soldiers were called out over a two day period to support relief efforts, clearing traffic and rendering aid to stranded motorists.

“We were given the mission of getting traffic going,” said Sgt. 1st Class Sherman McCoy with the 223rd Military Police Company.  “We helped a few motorists who were trying to get off the expressway and got stuck, digging them out and getting them off the road.  We also helped numerous tractor trailers that were stuck and we got them on their way.”

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Soldiers with the 2061st Multi-role Bridge Company assisted Hardin County Emergency Medical Services in providing man power assistance with patient and paramedic transport and ambulance recovery missions during the winter storm, March 5-7, 2015. The 2061st Team traveled in tandem with Hardin County EMS to numerous 911 Emergencies to ensure freedom of maneuver for EMS throughout Hardin County. (Courtesy photo)

“We’re not used to quite this much snow,” he said, “but it’s been a good mission.  We enjoy helping others.”

1st Sgt. Chris Jeter, 149th Brigade Support Battalion, said his troops worked to ensure travelers were safe and provided assistance to those whose vehicles were stuck in mounding snow.

“Short of hooking tow straps to our military vehicles, we have done everything possible to assist them,” he said of their efforts.

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In addition to responding state wide to these areas, local teams also assisted local emergency medical services, helping to reach patients not accessible by ambulance.

“We have been responding with paramedics to these areas, carrying them to the residence once they have gotten as far as they can go,” Jeter said adding that they are using Humvees and “good old foot power,” even helping to carry patients and paramedics back to the ambulance.

Kentucky National Guard troops help stranded trucker

Soldiers from the Kentucky National Guard’s Charlie Battery, 2nd Battalion 138th Field Artillery hook a Humvee to a semi-truck to pull it back onto I-65 March 6, 2015. Roughly 150 Guardsmen were activated to assist local authorities along Insertstates 24 and 65. (Kentucky National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Holdun Reed)

Troops also used Humvees to deliver food, water and gasoline to stranded motorists, and in some cases transported chilled travelers to warming shelters.  It was reported that some motorists were stranded up to nearly 24 hours.

“The Soldiers did it again,” said Col. Jerry Morrison, commander of the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. “Soldiers received alert phone calls as early as 0330 hours and began digging out of their own driveways to respond to citizens in I-65 and I-24. Over 120 Soldiers of the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade from Benton, Murray, Paducah, Bowling Green, Louisville, Elizabethtown, and Richmond were on duty by the time snow quit falling that afternoon.”

“We alerted, mobilized, executed our mission, and de-mobilized Soldiers in a 96 hour period. I am extremely proud of our leaders and units. Their response shows the requirement for the National Guard to remain in the home towns across America to provide immediate assistance to the Governor in times of crisis.”

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Spc. James Harmon, with the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry hands a case of water to Anne Cockley, a Red Cross volunteer at Green Hills Elementary School in Bledsoe, Ky., Feb. 24, 2015. The Soldiers assisted with water deliveries throughout Harlan County in response to a water shortage caused by a recent winter storm. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

This is the second such mission for the Kentucky National Guard in the past few weeks.  Earlier in February more than 100 troops were mobilized in response to the sub-zero temperatures and icy conditions that plagued Eastern Kentucky.  Soldiers cleared public roads, provided emergency transportation to hospitals and long term care medical facilities.  They also delivered several thousand gallons of water to communities suffering a water shortage brought about by damaged water systems.

In 2009 more than 4,000 soldiers and airmen were brought on duty when a state wide ice storm triggered wide spread power blackouts.  Troops delivered food and water to stranded residents, conducted door to door wellness checks and supported local authorities as needed.  The 2009 winter storm is considered one of the worst domestic natural disasters in the Kentucky National Guard’s history.

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