OAK ISLAND, N.C. – North Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to the 130th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade’s 105th and 505th Engineer Battalions worked with Brunswick County Emergency Management to transport first-responders and evacuate people stranded on Oak Island following Hurricane Isaias Aug. 5.
Isaias touched down along the southeastern coast of North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane. Guard members were dispatched across the state to assist in recovery efforts. The NCNG has supported the recovery in various ways, from tornado clean-up to coastal evacuations.
Guard members assigned to the 878th Engineer Vertical Construction Company had just completed annual training and were on their way to Camp Butner for weapons qualification when they got the call to respond. The next day they packed their bags, drove to the coast, and were dispatched to locations predicted to be hardest hit by the hurricane.
Many of the Soldiers activated for Isaias also assisted with COVID-19 operations.
“There are different missions, but the overall goal is the same; to make sure everyone in the community is taken care of safely,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Richard Ballard, an interior electrician assigned to the 878th. “On the COVID side, we were creating food boxes for kids and families, and here it’s helping with the evacuation and anything they need as far as moving out safely.”
The engineers maneuvered their vehicles through sand and water-covered roads, following directions from local officials and emergency management, to distribute water and help get people off the island.
“If they need any type of transportation, we use an LMTV or any type of vehicle that we have. Anyone we see walking or any of the civilians that we transport, we make sure they’re hydrated and give out water,” said Ballard.
Teams conducted a house-to-house search of all the homes on the west end of the island to ensure residents were safe and aware of the town’s mandatory evacuation order. They also helped people get off the island.
“The North Carolina National Guard is playing a huge support role in this operation,” said Lyle Johnston, deputy director of Emergency Medical Services for Brunswick County. “The North Carolina National Guard is here to help us get to places we can’t reach and provide transportation for those folks stranded on the island.”
The storm helped strengthen the partnerships and interoperability between the NCNG and NC Emergency Management.
“We all just kind of work as one big team even though we’re from different organizations,” said Johnston.
Hurricane Isaias was the first Atlantic storm of 2020’s hurricane season.