Va. Guard assistance continues after more snow hits the commonwealth

Governor Terry McAullife and Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran visit Wise County  Feb. 25, 2015, to assess damage and thank the many organizations working together to assist citizens. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Governor Terry McAullife and Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran visit Wise County Feb. 25, 2015, to assess damage and thank the many organizations working together to assist citizens. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

WISE, Va. — Virginia National Guard assistance to local emergency response organizations continued Feb. 26 with the addition of 60 more personnel joining the 30 already on duty since Feb. 22, 2015. Soldiers in Southwest Virginia have been assisting local law enforcement and emergency medical personnel with delivery of food, water, medicine and other supplies as well as assisting with medical and safety evacuations, with several making the difference between life and death for the patients.

“This is the kind of coordination we try to achieve with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the Virginia State Police, the Virginia National Guard, local emergency managers and local first responders all coming together to make sure we meet the needs of our citizens,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “This is the way it is supposed to work, and it is working very well.”

Moran visited Wise County with Governor Terry McAullife Feb. 25, 2015, to assess damage and thank the many organizations working together to assist citizens.

“Our team is doing a magnificent job,” McAullife said.

The Virginia National Guard staged another 50 Soldiers from the Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Feb. 25 to be on standby at readiness centers in Staunton, Sandston, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Danville. After sending out the alert in the afternoon, all the Soldiers were staged and ready by 8 p.m.

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assisted the Wise County Sheriff’s Office with multiple medical and safety evacuations since coming on state active duty Feb. 22, 2015, with three of those evacuations saving the patients’ lives. Soldiers from the 1033rd Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion continue to assist with delivering food, water and medicine to locations throughout the county.

“The Guard has really enhanced our abilities to get to people and places we couldn’t reach with the roads being in the shape they are in,” said Maj. Grant Kilgore, chief deputy for the Wise County Sheriff’s Office. “These are great guys, and everyone has worked really well together.”

The Guard brought 12 Soldiers from the Gate City-based 1032nd Transportation Company, 1030th Transportation Battalion on duty to provide support to Lee County, and they began conducting missions by Wednesday morning. An additional 12 Soldiers from the 1033rd with engineer equipment joined the Soldiers already on duty in Wise County on Wednesday to help clear ice and snow berms created by plowing the primary roads. Soldiers will continue to assist with the delivery of food, water and other supplies as needed.

The Virginia National Guard Soldiers who were on standby in Highland County were released Tuesday afternoon.

According to 1033rd Engineer Company 1st Sgt. Billy Bartlett, Soldiers assisted sheriff’s deputies and local emergency medical services with two patients in immediate need of dialysis and another whose oxygen supply was running low. The Guard’s ability to transport through heavy snow helped save the patients’ lives, he said. On two occasions, Soldiers created field-expedient stretchers from blankets and tarps to transport patients to a medical evacuation point.

Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency Feb. 16 and authorized up to 300 Virginia National Guard personnel could be brought on state active duty for possible response operations, and more than 125 personnel were staged and ready at locations across the commonwealth by that evening. The Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force were ready to support the Virginia State Police, the Virginia Department of Transportation and other state and local emergency response organizations.

McAuliffe also authorized aviators from the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment to deliver food, mail and medical supplies Feb. 16 to residents of Tangier Island. The 1.2 square mile island, located in the Chesapeake Bay, had been unable to receive routine seaport deliveries due to icy conditions.