Ky. National Guard helping Florence victims
N. Carolina native says 'great honor' to serve after Florence devastation
Indiana National Guard assist in post-Florence relief efforts
Extra Video and Interviews with the National Guard
Follow along with Lisa on Facebook and Twitter
Ky. Army National Guard return home from North Carolina
RALEIGH, NC (WHAS11) - Hurricane Florence battered the Carolinas and left many areas flooded, without power and some were even cut off from their surrounding areas. But, officials with the Kentucky Army National Guard have answered the call and have sent 60 members of the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade head to the area to help with relief efforts.
This particular unit will set up a command and control center to synchronize all aviation efforts of communication, rescue and assist those affected by the storm.
One year ago, soldiers and personnel assisted in efforts and aid to those affected by Hurricanes Irma, Maria and Harvey.
Officials say more than 7,500 National Guardsmen have been deployed to affected areas helping local law enforcement – it also includes 12 Airmen from Kentucky’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron from Louisville.
Chapter one: Ky. National Guard helping Florence victims
Kentucky is lending a hand in helping areas affected by Tropical Depression Florence, downgraded from a hurricane.
Here in Raleigh, North Carolina, the Army National Guard is working around the clock to imagine the unimaginable.
Six to 8 feet of storm surge coupled with record rainfalls have shut down nearly every major roadway in the southern part of the state – making their only option to reach these flooded areas is by air.
We caught up with the leader of the North Carolina National Guard Major General Gregory Lusk on Sunday, moments before he boarded a Blackhawk helicopter to tour the most impacted areas with the director of the US National Guard Director General Tim Kadavy.
He says right now at least 10 other states are sending aircraft and pilots to save lives and bring supplies to those that are stranded in the most historic flooding the state of North Carolina has ever seen.
“Record amounts of rain. Hurricane Matthew 2 years ago had historic flooding. Some of the predictions are saying the rivers that flooded then will rise 6 feet higher, so the amount of flooding is again our imagination.”
PHOTOS: KY Army National Guard Deploys to the Carolinas
Major General Lusk says this flash flooding North Carolina is experiencing is only the first phase.
As the rain collects in these rivers and tributaries and heads back towards the Atlantic there is another set of flooding that will go on and persist for at least another week.
The first mission right now is saving lives.
Major General Lusk says it was citizens driving into floodwaters two years ago after Hurricane Matthew that caused the largest loss of life.
That is a story they hope will not repeat itself in the aftermath of Florence.
Chapter two: N. Carolina native says 'great honor' to serve after Florence devastation
Sgt. Marquita Washington says returning to help her home state after the devastation of Florence is a great honor to serve the place she loves.
Sergeant Marquita Washington handles logistics with the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade out of Kentucky.
“You never know if you’re going to have a hot meal or a bed or a pillow – and so it’s good to just kind to have as much personal stuff you can bring – within limitation obviously,” she said.
Sgt. Washington is in charge of finding cots and places to stay for hundreds of National Guard troops flooding the Morrisville armory in Raleigh, the place she knows well.
It was a full circle moment for her with the National Guard taking her to Kentucky and now back to North Carolina.
“Wilson, North Carolina – that’s my home. I was just here – what – two weeks ago for Labor Day. My family has their annual family reunion there.”
PHOTOS: Hurricane Florence blasts Carolinas with wind, rain
Just days later she watched as Hurricane Florence barreled toward the coast, her family directly in the storm’s path.
“My immediate emotion was concern,” she said. “It’s especially personal for me to know that I’m helping not just citizens but family members.”
Most of Sgt. Washington’s family was able to evacuate in time.
“My family has that unique ability right now through Facebook to mark themselves as safe,” she said.
As they escaped to get to safety, Sgt. Washington came home to help.
“We know that all of this is bigger than us,” she said.
Sgt. Washington has been part of the National Guard since she was 17 and says her purpose is to be of service and what greater honor than to serve the state she loves.
“There’s so much devastation going on in the world. These hurricanes – they tear up communities. They tear up neighborhoods, kids aren’t able to go to school and learn. People can’t go to work. People are stranded in their homes. People are losing everything they worked for. So to just be able to be a blessing and be a beacon of light in a very dark place is the greatest gift,” she said.
Sgt. Washington is also in charge of making sure there is enough water for soldiers to drink and enough food for them to eat.
Chapter three: Indiana National Guard assist in post-Florence relief efforts
RALEIGH, N.C. (WHAS11) – The Indiana National Guard mobilized to the Morrisville Armory last week.
“We have two aircraft here – 14 Indiana Guardsmen,” Payne Grogg said.
Medivac and rescue missions are their specialties.
Grogg is a flight medic. As a paramedic, his normal of transportation is an ambulance. While he’s in North Carolina, it’s a Blackhawk helicopter. It’s his first time doing hurricane relief.
“This isn’t an everyday thing to me that I train to do this but for the people on the end of the rope that I’m bringing up with me, it’s not their every day – this isn’t normal to them,” he said.
Sgt. Jimmy Balting is the crew chief and has been with the National Guard for 10 years and those years spent, saving lives.
“At the age of 36, I joined the National Guard,” he said. “It’s very exciting but it’s also a double-edged sword. For us to go do this, people are in danger.”
In the midst of a natural disaster, they are angels in the sky and there is nowhere else they would rather be.
“You work really hard to make sure that you’re capable and ready to do your job and you know sometimes it just seems like you’re doing it for nothing but when times like this roll around and you’re actually allowed to get out and do your job it’s very rewarding,” Grogg said. “That’s why we all signed up and to be able to help and do our jobs.”
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Chapter four: Extra Video and Interviews with the National Guard
360 Video: WHAS11 Crew joins rescue teams in North Carolina
Chapter five: Follow along with Lisa on Facebook and Twitter
Chapter six: Ky. Army National Guard return home from North Carolina
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – As quick as they got the call to go to North Carolina, the 63rd Theater Brigade got the call they were free to come home.
They boarded a C-130 Kentucky bound but mechanical failure diverted them to Nashville.
That didn't stop them from renting vans and making the drive themselves to Frankfort.
After one week aiding our North Carolina neighbors, their work was done.
Saturday afternoon in Lexington, dozens waited, looking to the sky searching for that C-130.
They waited...and waited and waited and finally just before midnight, something about being diverted.
The soldiers proved a plane delay wouldn't keep them away from home.
Specialist Shane Harvey came just one day away from missing his one year wedding anniversary – one week too long from his wife and two children.
“Last she heard I was in Knoxville - surprise her,” he said.
North Carolina's National Guard now has a handle on the flooding throughout the state, giving Kentucky to green light to go home but not before a show of appreciation from the neighbors they came to help.
Now the job is complete and these soldiers will get a few hours rest before heading back to their day jobs until the call for help comes again.
There are 12 Kentucky Air National Guardsmen from the 123rd Forces Support Squadron out of Louisville still in North Carolina.