Guard Spotlight: North Carolina

Editor’s note: Hurricane Matthew may have exited the country, but its No. 1 after-effect, namely flooding, is still causing problems in the Southeast. As of last week, parts of central North Carolina were still being evacuated because of rising rivers that hadn’t yet reached flood stage.

Fortunately, thousands of Army National Guard Soldiers were on hand to help their neighbors in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida as Matthew subsided. They went to work by providing supplies, clearing roadways, evacuating citizens from their homes, and saving lives by boat, helicopter, and high-water trucks. The following story is yet another example of how these Soldiers can be counted on to serve their communities when tragedies strike.

Soldiers’ Swift-Water Rescue Training Saves Stranded Nurse

WILSON, N.C. – Most Army National Guard Soldiers serve part-time in the military, drilling with their Units, located close to where they live, once a month. They also typically attend a two-week training in the summer.

For 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) Wyatt Koch and Specialist (SPC) Robert Shook, their training in swift-water rescues at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, completed only months ago in June, could not have been timed better.

The Soldiers, both combat engineers from the 151st Engineer Battalion, rescued a local nurse, who had been stranded clinging to a tree for hours outside of Wilson, N.C., during severe flooding from Hurricane Matthew in the pre-dawn hours of Oct. 9.

The nurse did not return home from work and was reported missing when the N.C. Emergency Management Central Branch was called to send out a search and rescue team. Capt. Bert Henderson from the Wilson Fire Department and the two National Guard Soldiers were part of a multi-agency rescue team that began looking for the missing woman early Sunday morning.

2LT Koch and his team began to drive down a flooded road outside of Wilson, when they heard over the radio that another team could hear a cry for help. SPC Shook cut the engine off to the team’s Humvee when he heard faint cries of “help!” The three men got on the hood of the Humvee and began to use searchlights to look for the person calling out.

SPC Robert Shook and 2LT Wyatt Koch. Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Army National Guard.

Henderson was the first person to spot the flood victim, and SPC Shook threw his rescue rope first, but the current carried it away. 2LT Koch threw next, further upstream, and it was able to make it to the stranded woman. They began to pull her in, but she lost her grip, still yards away from the rescue team.

SPC Shook jumped into the floodwaters, quickly retrieving the woman, and began to buddy swim back to the Humvee. The current was too strong to fight, so SPC Shook began to tread water until another swift-water rescue boat pulled alongside the pair and pulled them into the boat. The team was able to bring her back safely to dry land.

“The [swift-water rescue] training worked tremendously,” SPC Shook said. “I never would have guessed that only a few months later I would be using it to save a life.”

The team continued to provide aid until paramedics arrived and took the woman to Wilson Medical Hospital. She had been in the water for more than four hours.

“I never thought that I would be jumping into floodwaters, but my training kicked in,” SPC Shook said. “All I knew was that I had to get to her and save her. This is what I signed up for, to serve my country and to help people.”

So, if you’d like to help your country, your neighbors and potentially save lives when disasters strike, contact a recruiter and check out our job board where you can find more information about Guard careers like combat engineer and others. There are more than 150 choices.

From original article by Capt. Matthew Boyle, 382nd Public Affairs Detachment, which appeared in October 2016 in the news section of


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