Responding to State Active Duty is Part of the Mission
By Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle, 167AW/PA
/ Published April 16, 2012
Martinsburg, W.Va. -- Severe storms pounded southern West Virginia on Thursday, March 16 providing Airmen the opportunity to lend a hand.
Several inches of rain fell in a short time. Rivers and creeks spilled over their banks, rolling through the hollows of Lincoln and Logan counties.
An estimated 150 to 200 homes and businesses were damaged by the flooding.
Within hours the West Virginia National Guard responded, sending in four Humvees to assist with health and welfare checks.
By Friday Wing leadership was tasked to put Airmen on stand-by for flood duty.
"What we saw last month was a couple days warning with the final decision to mobilize coming on a Sunday afternoon," said Lt. Col. Shaun Perkowski, the Wing's vice commander.
West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared an emergency which gave Major Gen. James A. Hoyer, the Mountain State's adjutant general, the authority to mobilize Guardsmen for State Active Duty.
"We usually only see it [State Active Duty] when there is some sort of natural disaster - the blizzard of 2010, flooding in southern West Virginia, tornado damage, etc.," said Perkowski.
Adding: "The tasking will come to 167th Wing leadership with an extremely short lead time, often less than 24 hours."
In a state emergency where time is critical, it's imperative to find volunteers quickly in order to get them ready and deployed, he said.
If volunteers cannot be found, the vice commander explained "the authority exists to order an Airman to state active duty."
For this particular tasking several Airmen volunteered for duty but due to time constraints, a few were ordered to it.
The following Monday morning, March 19th, Tech Sgt. Lee Watts headed up a group of 15 Airmen from the 167th Airlift Wing bound for flood duty to Logan County, located in the southwestern corner of the state.
Watts said there were about 150 West Virginia Army and Air Guardsmen working at their location. They were split into several teams and tasked to clear debris from specific portions of roadway.
"We saw everything in the debris," Watts said. "Everything from diabetic needles to family photos to furniture."
"We worked 10 to 12 hours days," he said. "We just worked in our assigned area, loading trucks with the debris. When the trucks were full they headed to the landfill to dump and then returned to do it all over again."
"We cleared the main road first and then we moved to the side streets. By the end, we just did anything we could to help out the residents."
The Airman noted that citizens were very appreciative. "They would go by and say 'thank you' and 'God bless you.'"
Watts said knowing they were helping people with such unfortunate circumstances made the work very satisfying.
"We helped one man clear thick mud out of his business," Watts said. "He was very thankful because he was able to open his business up after a week. He said he didn't know when he would have been able to reopen without our help because he couldn't have afforded to clean it out on his own."
Another positive aspect: learning a new skill.
Watts said he was proficient with the Bobcat ® by the end of the week.
Guardsmen were originally scheduled to be on duty for two weeks, but completed the clean-up efforts within just one week. This was the first State Active Duty tour Watts has done in his career. He said he would do it again and would encourage others to do the same if the opportunity arises.
"You definitely had a sense of satisfaction when the work was all done," he said.
Perkowski felt the same way about his State Active Duty tour during the blizzards of 2010.
"I personally had the opportunity to help out in the Jefferson County Emergency Operations Center during the 2010 blizzard and it was one of the most worthwhile experiences of my career," he said.
It is hard work but when the need exists to help the citizens of West Virginia, Perkowski reminds us that we are bound to comply with the governor's directive.
"We all take an oath to obey the orders of the governor of West Virginia," he said.
Perkowski encourages all members of the 167th to volunteer for this type of duty.
Adding: "It's one of the unique capabilities and opportunities of the Guard."
What Guardsmen Should Know About State Active Duty:
State Active Duty- Mobilization by TAG upon declaration of emergency by Governor
It is different than Title 10 or Title 32
Pay is similar but not the same as Title 10 or Title 32
Retirement points are not earned while on State Active Duty
Line of duty falls under Workman's Comp