Kentucky Air Guard completes tornado response mission

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Clayton Wear,
  • 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

MAYFIELD, Ky. – Seventeen Kentucky Air National Guard Airmen completed a 10-day mission to control traffic and provide security as residents struggled to recover from a Category 5 tornado that carved a 220-mile path of destruction across five states Dec. 10-11, leveling much of this small town and killing 76 people in Kentucky.

The Airmen, all defenders from the 123rd Security Forces Squadron and the 123rd Contingency Response Group, arrived Dec. 12 from Louisville to augment the Mayfield Police Department. The units provided presence patrols and critical infrastructure site security.

“All sorts of law enforcement requirements exist in Mayfield normally, but with the tornado, the local law enforcement needed supplementation to accomplish the higher manpower requirements,” said 2nd Lt. David Farc, 123rd SFS operations officer.

“We got a call notifying us that there was a high likelihood of us mobilizing on the day of the tornado, and by about 10 a.m. the next day, we got the official call to report to base at 1 p.m.”

Once on base, the Airmen prepped two patrol trucks, two 4x4-enabled prowlers and two pickups.

“The scope that we were tasked for was to help assist law enforcement in the areas they needed, like traffic control points, welfare checks, show of force, random patrolling of logistics hubs, and to help alleviate any problems local law enforcement may encounter,” said Chief Master Sgt. Greg Myers, 123rd Security Forces Squadron superintendent.

Master Sgt. J Shultz, the squadron’s first sergeant, has worked as a civilian police officer in the Mayfield community for 11 years and lives just 8 miles south of town.

“As soon as this happened I thought, ‘I wish I could have some of my troops from my unit down here to help,’” said Shultz. “I have been shocked at how fast they’ve learned the roads in the city, and the landmarks in the city even when there is just rubble.

“These guys were able to walk in as if they were experienced officers in this town and help us respond to numerous calls,” he said. “It has been such a relief that the Kentucky Air Guard has had boots on the ground and is here to back me up as well as everybody else in this town.”

Myers said his team was happy to help fellow Kentuckians in need.

“It’s important to have us here because we can take a lot of the burden off the Mayfield Police Department, and we can show the community that the Air National Guard is here to assist them because we are all family in times like this.”

In addition to the 17 defenders, the Kentucky Air Guard deployed 18 more Airmen and one search-and-rescue canine to Mayfield. Participating units included the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron; the 123rd Airlift Wing Chaplain’s Office and Fatality Search and Recovery Team; and the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package. Three Air Operations officers also supported the Joint Air Operations Center in Frankfort.

Recovery efforts continue across Western Kentucky with the assistance of the Kentucky Army National Guard and multiple local, state and federal agencies.