By Spc. Brandy Mort,
FRANKFORT, Ky. — As soon as the sun rose March 3, the need for the Kentucky National Guard was evident by the wide-spread tornado damage across more than 40 of the 120 counties that make up the bluegrass state.
From the sky in a Kentucky Guard UH-60 Black Hawk, Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson surveyed the damage saying he’d never seen anything more devastating to the counties as what he witnessed in the wake of 13 reported tornadoes that ripped the commonwealth the evening of March 2.
About 40 citizen-Soldiers assigned to the 623rd Field Artillery batteries reported for duty immediately after the storm clouds had dissipated and began assisting the citizens of East Bernstadt, Ky.
Meanwhile, Guard Soldiers based with the 301st Chemical Company arrived in West Liberty, Ky., to assist local fire and law enforcement in evacuation, recovery and relief efforts.
Staff Sgt. Michael Dement, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist with the 301st, said his team’s mission was to cordon off the city, maintain control and get accountability of the citizens in the town.
“The look on people’s faces when they see they’ve lost everything they own tugs at you,” he said.
In Salyersville where many homes and businesses no longer stood, 50 Soldiers from the 207th Engineer Battalion directed traffic, aided in search and rescue operations and handed out food and supplies.
“I feel honored to have the opportunity to help the people here,” said Spc. Glen C. Cornett, a horizontal engineer with the 207th. “At the same time I feel horrible because of the tragedy that has occurred.”
More than 220 members of the National Guard and Air Guard were mobilized throughout the state 10 Kentucky counties declared states of emergency after Gov. Steve Beshear declared a statewide emergency.