May 20, 2009

Virginia Guard Soldiers arrive in West Virginia to assist with flood clean up

By Maj. Cotton Puryear and Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

WILLIAMSON, West Va. — Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard’s Cedar Bluff-based 1033rd Engineer Company arrived safely in West Virginia May 18 where they began assisting with the state’s flood recovery operations. Approximately 30 Soldiers will assist with debris removal and other clean up operations and are scheduled to be on duty for up to 30 days.

  1033rd Engineer Company

Sgt. Jason Lowe of Richlands guides a scoop loader driven by Sgt. Joshua Blevins of Gate City onto a tractor trailer May 17 to prepare the vehicle for transport to West Virginia. The Virginia National Guard's Cedar Bluff-based 1033rd Engineer Company departed in the early morning May 18 to assist with debris removal and flood recovery in West Virginia. The unit is scheduled to be on duty up to 30 days. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)  Click HERE for a full size photo.

“We are very excited about this mission,” said 1st Lt. Adam Provost of Charlottesville, the commander of the 1033rd. “This is the mission most of us signed up for, and that’s to help our neighbors and local communities. Fighting wars overseas is an important part of our job, but supporting our communities is why we joined the Guard.”

While in West Virginia the Soldiers are working side by side with their counterparts from West Virginia’s 111th Engineer Brigade, as well as with local civilians. The 1033rd is working hand in hand with elements from the West Virginia Air Guard as well as the 151st Military Police Battalion out of Dunbar, West Virginia.

The engineers have been busy cleaning debris and moving rock to fill in the washed out sections of roads. The unit had moved more than 390 tons of dirt and debris in their first two days, according to Sgt. 1st Class Claude Dye, acting first sergeant from Richlands.

The Soldiers have been welcomed warmly by the West Virginia Guardsmen and have integrated well, Provost said. “These guys have been awesome, anything we need they are able to get us,” he said.

The local community was devastated by 5-6 inches of rain in a span of 3-4 hours which caused flash floods and water damage to several counties in Southern West Virginia and the surrounding areas. In some areas the water came in and ate the roadways away, according to Provost.

The Soldiers are equipped with four 2.5 cubic-yard front-end loaders hauled by tractor trailers, eight 5-ton dump trucks and nine chain saw kits. The Soldiers will provide the necessary personnel support to operate and maintain the equipment.

“This is one of the more fulfilling missions we have in the Virginia National Guard, but also one of the most devastating when you see where your neighbors have lost everything,” Dye said. Dye served on flood recovery duty in West Virginia in 2001, and he saw first hand the impact of severe flooding on the citizens living in flood-damaged areas.

  1033rd Engineer Company

A tractor trailer carrying a scoop loader departs the Cedar Bluff armory May 18 en route to West Virginia. The Virginia National Guard's Cedar Bluff-based 1033rd Engineer Company departed in the early morning May 18 to assist with debris removal and flood recovery in West Virginia. The unit is scheduled to be on duty up to 30 days. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) Click HERE for a full size photo.

 

Dye said that about 70 percent of the Soldiers on the mission just returned home from an overseas deployment about five months ago, and he hopes their experience and “mission first” mind set will set the example for the younger Soldiers in the unit.

The goal for the mission is to “hit is hard, get it done, and everyone comes home with 10 fingers and 10 toes,” Dye said

Of the approximately 30 Soldiers, six are from Richlands, four are from Bristol, two each are from Abingdon, Bluefield, Gate City and Tazewell and individuals Soldiers are coming from Big Stone Gap, Chilhowie, Davenport, Grundy, Hopewell, Mendota, Oakwood, Pound, Pulaski and Warsaw.

  1033rd Engineer Company

Pvt. Justin Beam of Tazewell adds water to the coolant system of a 5-ton dump truck May 17 in preparation for convoy movement to West Virginia. The Virginia National Guard's Cedar Bluff-based 1033rd Engineer Company departed in the early morning May 18 to assist with debris removal and flood recovery in West Virginia. The unit is scheduled to be on duty up to 30 days. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)  Click HERE for a full size photo.

The request for assistance came through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a Congressionally-ratified organization that provides form and structure to interstate mutual aid. Through EMAC, a disaster-impacted state can request and receive assistance from other member states quickly and efficiently. Once the Governor approves a request for assistance, the Virginia Guard determines what unit, personnel and equipment can best support the request.

“We welcome the chance to assist our neighbors in West Virginia during this time of need,” said Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia. “It is important that we all know that in a crisis where the health and welfare of citizens are at risk, no one stands alone. I am glad we can provide assistance, and I know if the tables were turned, we could count on assistance from other states here in Virginia.”

Additional photos are available at the Virginia Guard Public Affairs flickr page:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157618331966863/

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