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Reservists aid town blasted by tornado

Nov. 20, 2013 - 07:43PM   |  
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About two dozen Reserve soldiers took part in the response to recovery efforts in the aftermath of a deadly tornado that ripped through Washington, Ill., this week.

The 724th Transportation Company, which was drilling in nearby Bartonville, Ill., received approval to send a convoy of vehicles to Washington, and set up blockades to assist with traffic control, according to an Army Reserve Command news release.

The 724th soldiers used bobtail trucks and humvees to set up blockades at four locations around the tornado-ravaged town of about 15,000 people.

“There were downed power lines and gas leaks and local authorities wanted to prevent traffic from going into those areas,” said 724th commander 1st Lt. La’Darrian Smith.

Smith worked with first responders inside an Emergency Operation Center on site. His team supported local law enforcement until civil services arrived later in the evening and the 724th’s help was deemed no longer needed.

“I honestly believe the 724th helped save lives,” said Brig. Gen. Arlan DeBlieck, commanding general, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), of Des Moines, Iowa. “They helped keep people off the roads in dangerous areas.”

The troops operated under “immediate response authority,” responding to a request from the Washington fire chief to help police set up blockades on roads leading in and out of the town, according to the release.

The Stafford Act and DOD Directive 3025.18 authorize military commanders to use their soldiers at the request of local authorities to aid in the recovery from a domestic natural disaster for up to 72 hours without an official mobilization order.

“I was impressed with the speed of communication to gain approval for this mission and our ability to pass updates up and down the chain of command,” said Col. Jennifer Ryan, commander of the 206th Regional Support Group, Springfield, Ill.

Ryan, along with leadership from the 419th Movement Control Battalion from Bartonville, were also on site.

“The soldiers were very excited to contribute and help those in need,” she said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the leadership’s response and their ability to organize a 24-person team to support the mission.”

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