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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Guard Spotlight: New York

National Guard Protects New York City Against Terrorism

(Editor’s note: After this story was published on, New York Gov. Cuomo announced that he is deploying another 1,000 New York State Police and National Guard members to patrol New York City’s bus terminals, airports and subway stations after a bombing injured 29 people in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood on Sept. 17.)

SGT Erislav Astanov, left, and SPC Saul Revatta, both part of the New York National Guard’s Joint Task Force Empire Shield, stand guard in a shopping mall and commuter hub at the World Trade Center complex in New York City. Photo by C. Todd Lopez.

NEW YORK CITY – Musician John Legend recently performed at the opening of a new shopping mall inside a facility that also serves as a commuter hub at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan.

About 20 service members from the New York National Guard were there at that event as well, though they weren’t there for the performance. They were working as part of a unique security detail seen in few other places in the United States.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Soldiers and Airmen with the New York National Guard have served as part of Joint Task Force Empire Shield, or JTFES. The task force puts a military presence on the ground around New York City transit centers, such as at the World Trade Center hub, Grand Central Station, LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and various bridges and tunnels in the city: all places with a lot of people moving into or out of the city.

Headquartered at Fort Hamilton, an Army installation in Brooklyn, N.Y., JTFES was created as a response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“Our mission is to deter and detect terrorism,” said LTC Peter P. Riley, the task force commander. “We’re not law enforcement. We’re there to support law enforcement. We’re there to deter terrorism and notice any type of inappropriate or suspicious activity that could be terrorist-related.”

For Riley, the mission is gratifying. 

“It’s one of the best jobs in the National Guard,” he said. “You’re keeping your country safe and your city safe.”

For the past 15 years, New Yorkers have seen those service members at transit hubs around the city: in uniform and working in partnership with other agencies to keep New York City safe.

“Now we are part of the culture in NYC,” said LTC Riley. “We are embedded with all the different law enforcement agencies. You have that unified effort where you have all the different agencies working together to defeat terrorism in the No. 1 terrorist target in the world: NYC.”

The task force doesn’t take everybody. First, service members must be members of the New York National Guard. Then they must apply and be accepted into the highly selective positions.

Service members in the Unit train on a variety of items, ranging from various tactical scenarios to what to do after an attack, according to CSM Arnold G. Reyes.

“They are doing all that not only to safeguard the citizens, but because it’s the aftermath they also have to deal with,” he said. “Our job is not only to deter, but to help after the fact.”

SGT Erislav Astanov said that by being part of JTFES, he knows he’s doing something important. Many who pass by him will stop and thank him for what he does.

“A lot of people appreciate us,” he said. “They say thank you for your service, thank you for being here. A lot of people tell me that. A lot of people shake our hands.”

So, if you want to help protect your community, serving in your State’s Army National Guard is a great way to do that. Guard service is a part-time commitment that comes with valuable benefits like money for college and training in a career field. You can explore more than 150 career fields on our job board, or contact a recruiter today.

(Original story, written by C. Todd Lopez, appeared earlier this month in the news section of


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