By Maj Holli Nelson
West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs
Fourteen Soldiers from the West Virginia National Guard’s Company C, 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion (MEDEVAC) and Company B, 1-224th Security and Support Aviation Battalion located in Williamstown, West Virginia, flew more than 25 hours July 28, rescuing over a dozen people and three pets from southeastern Kentucky.
At the direction of Governor Jim Justice on July 28th, the West Virginia National Guard launched two UH-60M Blackhawks and two UH-72 Lakota aircraft within one and a half hours of the initial request for assistance from Kentucky. The aircrews arrived in Hazard, Kentucky at approximately 2 p.m. yesterday and began coordination with the Kentucky National Guard.
“The West Virginia Guard has an exceptionally great working relationship with the Kentucky National Guard’s aviation team, and we have supported each other for many years in response to natural disasters in our states going as far back as 2001,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Harold Nicely, West Virginia State Aviation Officer. “We are just a small part of the overall response taking place, but to be able to be there to support our colleagues and the people of Kentucky is truly an honor. This is what the National Guard does best – we help our citizens when they are in need.”
Aircrew members continue to conduct missions today in conjunction with the Kentucky National Guard and Tennessee National Guard.
“The work that these Soldiers are doing in the field as we speak is incredible,” stated U.S. Army Maj. Ryan Wolfe, commander Company C, 2-104th GASB. “At one point yesterday, one of our hoists lasted over 20 minutes as our crews rescued half a dozen people from a hillside. If we weren’t constantly training for this, both with our own crews and our counterparts across the National Guard, this monumental effort would not have been possible.”
“I’m incredibly proud of all the National Guard members, first responders and regular citizens who are stepping up to help Kentucky during this time of need,” stated Maj. Gen. Bill Crane, adjutant general of West Virginia. “This is what makes the National Guard so great – we come together as a team whether it be here in West Virginia or in one of our neighboring states, we are always there to answer the call. We will continue to provide assistance as needed for our neighbors in Kentucky throughout this response effort.”
The team of Soldiers will remain in place until completion of the mission, as deemed by the Kentucky National Guard.