CARTHAGE, Mo. - Immediately after being activated by Gov. Jay Nixon, the Missouri National Guard began tornado relief operations in Joplin.
Approximately 140 Guardsmen are assisting in search and rescue missions in support of local authorities, and are expected to conduct a number of missions in the upcoming days including emergency route clearance, communications support, door-to-door safety visits and security.
"As soon as we heard the news of the tornadoes, the Missouri National Guard began mobilization activities," said Maj. Gen. Stephen L. Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard. "Your Missouri National Guard is bringing experienced Citizen-Soldiers and leaders to provide the best support we have to our neighbors in Joplin."
Among those responding are the Soldiers of the 117th Engineer Team, of Monett, and 294th Engineer Company, of Carthage and Anderson. Additionally, a Joint Task Force Communications Kit out of Jefferson City is in route to assist local authorities.
The troops are part of a task force which is organized under the 203rd Engineer Battalion and is using the Carthage Armory as a power projection platform to stage and deploy troops to Joplin. The Missouri National Guard has a total force of more than 11,500 Guard members who are ready to respond.
Spc. Daniel Brown, of the 117th Engineer Team, said his unit was the first to respond and has worked throughout the night.
"We got the call while doing our annual training in nearby Anderson and we immediately packed up and went straight to Joplin," said Brown.
Along the way he saw overturned trucks at the intersection of highways 71 and 44 and his unit stopped to check the Flying J gas station for any people.
"It was clear and we moved on the Joplin where we spent the night at the Wal-Mart and a local sports store searching the rubble," said Brown. "This is something nobody wants to see and thankfully we haven't needed to save anyone yet, but we've got a lot of good knowledge and training to help. This is our job, and Joplin is our backyard."
The 117th Engineer Team has special equipment and the Soldiers have extensive training and expertise to conduct search and rescue missions. The Soldiers are currently conducting 12-hour shifts in support of local authorities.
Spc. Richard Stotts, of the 294th Engineer Company, was driving with his girlfriend when the storms hit. After taking shelter and making sure his family was safe, Stotts immediately began helping and pulled three people out of the local AT&T building when he got the call that he was mobilized.
For Stotts the transition from citizen helping citizens to Soldier helping citizens was seamless.
"This is what I signed up for, to help people," said Stotts.
The 294th Engineer Company worked throughout the night and is currently supporting the 117th and local authorities.
Throughout the area, supporting the citizens is the main mission, said Maj. Michael Brown, executive officer for the 203rd Engineer Battalion.
"We are here to support the citizen of Joplin anyway we can," said Brown. "Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones in this disaster. The residents here are our fellow citizens, neighbors and friends. We will remain here as long as they need us."
Missouri's Soldiers and Airmen will continue working in support of local authorities until released by the governor.
Units supporting the tornado response include: Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 35th Engineer Brigade, of Fort Leonard Wood; Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 203rd Engineer Battalion, of Joplin; 3-135th Aviation Battalion, of Lebanon; Company A, 935th Aviation Support Battalion, of Aurora; 294th Engineer Company (Equipment Support), of Anderson and Carthage; 276th Engineer Company (Vertical), of Pierce City; Forward Support Company, 203rd Engineer Battalion, of Joplin; 117th Engineer Team (Asphalt), of Monett; 70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment of Jefferson City and the Joint Operations Center at Joint Force Headquarters in Jefferson City.
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please visit www.moguard.com and our social media sites: