CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As chaos strikes the Carolinas via massive amounts of rain and debris from Tropical Storm Florence, a team of North Carolina Air National Guard members is huddled Saturday around computers and phones in an Emergency Operation Center held at the 145th Airlift Wing, Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
U.S. Air Force 145th Mission Support Group Commander, Col. Shawne Johnson, acts as the Emergency Operation Center director during the day shift and is in constant flow of communication between the Crisis Action Team and the Joint Operation Center in Raleigh; she also communicates between the members working out of the North Carolina Air National Guard Regional Training Site in Stanly County.
While many National Guard units across the country are sending assistance to the Carolinas, 22 North Carolina Air National Guard members are spread equally between Kinston and Tarboro, North Carolina, in warehouse units with multiple pallets of supplies in the wake of Tropical Storm Florence. One of the Guard members pushing pallets in Kinston is none other than Tech. Sgt. William Johnson, Col. Johnson's son.
"It's been a really awesome experience to see all these folks from Arizona, California, New York and New Jersey, people from all over the nation coming to help North Carolina," said Tech. Sgt. Johnson. "I'm coordinating between civilian warehouse managers to make sure my team is doing what they need to."
While some Airmen were mandated to be activated, Tech. Sgt. Johnson volunteered to help in the face of danger.
"I'm very proud of him - that he stepped up and volunteered to be state activated for this, because he wanted to help out where he could. He helped out during Hurricane Maria, went to Puerto Rico, and when he came back he said it was one of the most rewarding experiences he's ever had," said Col. Johnson.
As Hurricane Florence advanced closer and more inland towards the end of the week, it turned into a Tropical Storm. The rainwater accumulated and the warehouse that Tech. Sgt. Johnson and his fellow Airmen were stocking pallets in became flooded, which forced them to move to the Kinston Airport.
"Of course there is some motherly concern but I know he can take care of himself. He knows I don't need much in a text; just to text me every once in awhile and let me know he's ok," said Col. Johnson.
One might think it may be difficult to have your family member in the same fight against Tropical Storm Florence, but for Tech. Sgt. Johnson, his point of view is more laissez faire.
"It's pretty cool; I just do my job. I gave her a call last night, and this morning, just to let her know I was safe," Tech. Sgt. Johnson said.
Airmen like Tech. Sgt. Johnson and his mother, Col. Johnson, have been activated and sent all over the state to help those in need and to provide resources for those who cannot get to them.
"So many of our Airmen want to do their job; they thrive so well when they can use their skills, especially when it's a humanitarianism mission," stated Col. Johnson.
Of course, Col. Johnson and her son, Tech. Sgt. Johnson, are not the only family duos in the North Carolina Air National Guard. There are a few that range from father and son, to aunt and nephew, as well as brother to brother.
"It's not a normal dynamic but growing up with someone who has been in the military for 30 years; I've got an insight into how things work and how missions like this go on," said Tech. Sgt. Johnson.
"I don't know for sure if he would have joined if he hadn't had so much exposure from my military career, but he might've," said Col. Johnson, "Guard is family; our best recruiters are family."