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NEWS | Oct. 17, 2018

Florida National Guard Soldiers provide shelter security

By Staff Sgt. Aidana Baez Florida National Guard

PANAMA CITY, Fla. - Soldiers of Company A, 53rd Brigade Support Battalion have been assisting law enforcement at Rutherford High School, a public high school in Panama City, Florida, where approximately 300 displaced residents have taken shelter following Hurricane Michael.

Hurricane Michael made landfall as a Category 4 storm in the Florida Panhandle on Oct. 10 and is recorded as, in terms of pressure, the third most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the United States.

"It has been a little chaotic," said Sgt. Fraicor Terrero, a heavy vehicle driver assigned to Company A, 53rd Brigade Support Battalion. "There are a lot of people in need."

Terrero and his team are a part of the over-3,000 Soldier response to the relief effort. The specific mission for the team of eight is to augment law enforcement and provide security for the civilians in the shelter.

"Basically, we are doing a show of presence," said Terrero. "Helping out with whatever they need."

When not performing his duties with the National Guard, Terrero is a law enforcement officer in Manatee County, Florida. His training in law enforcement has helped him during this mission.

"You learn how to handle situations and handle people," Terrero said.

Terrero and his team arrived at the shelter early Saturday morning and have been providing security since then.

"We got here Saturday in the middle of the night," said Spc. Thomas J. Kotvas, an ammunition specialist assigned to Company A, 53rd Brigade Support Battalion. "We got a little tour and now we are just trying to assist law enforcement trying to keep the peace by showing presence."

Kotvas has no previous experience with relief missions but has already learned a lot since arriving in the Panhandle.

"This is my first time getting activated and doing anything like this, so this is all new to me," said Kotvas. "It is a really humbling experience, seeing what it is like after a disaster and what these people have to go through. So a couple days of being uncomfortable for me isn't really a big deal especially, if there are people who lost their homes."