National Guard troops arrive for local relief effort
Marlinton, W.Va. – A squad of 11 National Guard troops arrived in Pocahontas County on the Fourth of July to help with relief efforts, after a windstorm knocked out power and telephone service in the region. The soldiers are members of the 1-201st Field Artillery, which has batteries in Morgantown, Elkins and Maxwelton. The soldiers made welfare checks and delivered food water and supplies to those in need.
After completing their mission here, the troops rallied in Marlinton on Saturday to prepare to move to Upshur and Barbour counties to help people there.
Specialist Yuno Jang describes the call-up.
“I just got called out Tuesday of last week,” he said. “I think it was the day before Fourth of July. My readiness NCO told me there’s people who need help down in Pocahontas County. I just packed my gear within two hours and came down to Elkins and reported to Pocahontas County the next day, the Fourth of July.”
Jang says the heat was the biggest challenge.
“Definitely the heat,” he said. “The heat was the biggest problem and just seeing people, you know, surviving without power is just tough to see because where we stayed, we had electricity. But they didn’t for almost a week long.”
The soldier gives his impression of Pocahontas County.
“It’s definitely a beautiful county out here,” he said. “It’s quiet, beautiful. Yesterday, last night, I was sitting outside by the humvee and just looking at the sky and I didn’t see that many stars in my life. It’s a beautiful county out here.”
PFC Aidan Raezer says he feels good about the mission.
“I mean, some people that are out there with kids, the elderly, you know, they’re not able to get what they need,” he said. So, I’m glad to be out here doing this and helping everyone. It actually makes me feel great. This is the reason I joined the Guard anyways. I wasn’t able to deploy with the unit last year. So, it make me feel goood to get out and do something like this.”
The Army needed a good leader with knowledge of the area, so they called Sergeant Danny Hoke, of Hillsboro.
“There was already, previously, soldiers called out and they were going to cover this area,” he said. “Once they finally got together, they called me and that was Tuesday morning. We’ve been running Lobelia-Jacox Road and went to all the elderly people out there. We did the same run with the water and the ice and we delivered meals a little bit later through the week.
“They’re doing pretty good. Some people had medical issues, but they have been taken care of, accordingly. I feel good about it. I feel it’s good for the community. I’m just glad I can help with it.”
Officer Candidate Joel Richardson was visiting in-laws in Greenbrier County when the storm hit.
“Right during dinner, the storm hit and I’ve been here since,” he said. “Sergeant First Class [unintelligible] knew I was in the area with my wife and knows the in-laws are local. He wanted to check on us and he also said a response team is being put together and would like to know if I would like to volunteer and I was like, ‘without a doubt, I’ll be there.’ It’s been going well. From a standpoint of someone about to become an officer – seeing the logistics, operations side behind it. Working with the civilian authorities and providing relief. Making happy faces. Offering assistance in food, meals. Just reassuring people.
“It sums up countryside West Virginia. But the people are nice. Warm and welcoming. Some of the most humble and nicest people I have seen, especially on the back roads. They were well receptive of our visits, the health and wellness checks. Delivering water. Just find out how people are doing. Seeking information on any medical requests.”
Richardson reports to Fort Benning, Georgia on August 25 for Officer Candidate School. The future officer says he wants to go to Airborne School.
SPC Jang says the deployment made him proud.
“It’s definitely made me proud,” he said. “I’m a soldier, myself. But it’s a feeling that’s hard to explain – when I see these people, you know, when they’re getting water and everything. They’re like, ‘thank you’ and that’s like a touch moment, I guess, you know. But, it’s definitely made me proud of what I’m doing and that’s why I joined the Army.”
And this old soldier is proud of these great young troops.