Feb. 12, 2010

News media captures Virginia Guard response efforts

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

RICHMOND, Va. — National, regional and local news organizations captured the Virginia National Guard’s historic effort to assist state and local emergency response organizations as they battled record snow across the commonwealth. National news organizations like PBS and CNN, as well as television stations and newspapers in Winchester, Harrisonburg, Staunton, Charlottesville, Culpeper, Fredericksburg and the Hampton Roads area detailed how the Guard was helping out since Gov. McDonnell declared a state of emergency Feb. 3.

Spc. Amy Richardson conducts an interview with NBC 29's Henry Graff in Greene County Feb. 9. Richardson is assigned to the Charlottesville-based Company C, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team and was assisting Greene County’s Rescue Squad in providing emergency response to the Stanardsville, Va., Feb 9, 2010. The Virginia Guard’s vehicles can provide access to roads and driveways that ambulances may not  be able to travel. (Photo by Capt. Matt Nowak, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page for more photos.

Maj. John Winkler appeared Feb. 10 on the nationally televised PBS NewsHour and described the missions of about 100 Soldiers working in the Fairfax County area. “We're doing everything we can to support the Northern Virginia area,” he told Gwen Ifill. Winkler described how the Guard working as a team with local authorities to deal with the snow and how Soldiers were transporting citizens to receive medical care and getting nurses and doctors into work.

Washington DC news station WJLA reported on Soldiers under Winkler’s command transporting an elderly woman in need kidney dialysis treatment, and WRIC captured video of Soldiers assisting Fairfax County firefighters battle an apartment blaze Feb. 9.

Glenda Lewis described to WJLA what a relief it was for the Guard to transport her mother. "They were the cavalry this morning sort of," she said. "Just the fact of knowing that we could get here, and they went slowly to make it as gentle a ride as they could." Lewis said that without the ride from the Guard, they would have probably ended up in the emergency room.

The Harrisonburg Daily News Record reported 45 Soldiers on duty at the local armory under the command of Capt. Marshall Lupo of Orange. "Our guys will do whatever they need to do," Lupo said. "These Soldiers walked a mile in snow to rescue a family in need. That's the nature of these Soldiers."

Spc. Sean Wheeler and Sgt. Derek Braswell conducted the family rescue in Rileyville along with two firefighters from the Luray Volunteer Fire Department and helped carry two young children to safety in their large military back packs. Wheeler told the News Record he enjoys public service, especially when he's assisting folks in his own backyard. "I'm helping out my own people," he said. 

The troops were assigned to Luray, Shenandoah and Stanley where they assisted with rescues, helped transport hospital employees to work, cleared debris off roads, checked roofs for structural damage and went door to door to see if citizens needed rids to shelter.

"It feels good to help," said Sgt. Christopher Taylor of Woodbridge who was assisting Shenandoah rescue crews. "I saw a different side of life. It was amazing."

Local emergency response officials expressed their appreciation for the Guard’s assistance. "They've been a great help to us," said Stanley Fire Chief Terry Pettit. "A lot of places we couldn't have got to without their help."

Soldiers in Charlottesville went on foot up a mountain as well. "We had to actually hike up a mountain because we could not get our Humvee up there, so there was three of us using sleds to carry our gear up," Spc. Amy Richardson told NBC 29. The station reported how Soldiers were helping emergency crews get to anyone who needs help, assisting people without power and working with chainsaws to help clear fallen trees from the roads.

TV 3 in Winchester reported how the Virginia Guard was assisting emergency medical services personnel and identifying roads that are closed in the area. "The guys are having a lot of fun, they're getting a chance to do their job here locally verses always being sent out some place else," said Sgt. 1st Class Matt Holben.


Spc. Christopher Alberts of King William moves Olive Lewis from his Humvee after transport. Fairfax County resident Olive Lewis was not able to make a needed medical appointment for kidney dialysis, so the Fairfax County Emergency Operations Center dispatched the Virginia National Guard to transport her. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page for more photos.

Capt. Stephen Carey explained to the Staunton News Leader how the Guard was able to plan ahead and coordinate local efforts before this storm hit as opposed to the surprise December 2009 snowstorm. The newspaper reported how National Guard teams were stationed in Verona, Waynesboro, Staunton and Swoope with Humvees and military transport vehicles to help assist on emergency calls.

Soldiers told reporters about the positive feedback they received from the public during their missions, and some citizens made the effort to publicly thank the Guard for their efforts.

“I want to thank the National Guard for taking me to work last weekend,” wrote Kimberly Blake in a letter to the Free Lance-Star published Feb. 10. Blake, a Mary Washington Hospital nurse, was snowed in and unable to get to work and was provided with transportation by the Virginia Guard. “I was able to provide care during the snowstorm of 2010.”

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