Grim Task for National Guard Amid the Devastation in Oklahoma



Mike O'Brien
05/21/2013

Nearly 250 members of the Oklahoma National Guard were assisting on Tuesday with victim search and security in Moore, where a monster tornado left scores of people dead.

The toll of at least 51 dead, including 20 children, was revised down at 9am on Tuesday by the Oklahoma City medical examiner to 24 fatalities, although that figure is expected to rise throughout the day.

The twister hit Monday about 3:15pm local time, when children were still in two elementary schools in the Oklahoma City suburb.

Packing winds of up to 200 mph, the tornado tore off the roof of Plaza Towers Elementary School and pulverized walls.

Volunteers joined first responders who helped rescue children and staff from the devastation, the Associated Press reported.

Gov. Mary Fallin activated the Airmen and Soldiers on Monday.

Nationalguard.mil reports that among those responding was the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron from nearby Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City.

In a video interview, 2nd Lt. Gabriel Bird said the unit members carried thermal imaging gear to help locate those buried in rubble. "Hopefully, we’ll find survivors," Bird said.

Members also carried multi-band radios to communicate with ground and aircraft crews and basic medical supplies, Mr. Bird added.

"We're a pretty new unit so we haven’t supported any state emergencies," Mr. Bird said.

But he noted that many members are veterans who themselves have supported other disaster-recovery operations.

(Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Kendall James)