LETCHER COUNTY, Ky. – As flood waters rose in Eastern Kentucky, the call went out to the National Guard that their help would be needed.
In the hours following the first rainfall, hundreds of Kentucky Guard Soldiers were called on to provide rescue operations, supply distribution and security.
For Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Dyal from 577th Engineer Company, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, was eager to answer that call for help. He has worked at several points of distribution (POD) sites, ensuring residents receive water and supplies. He has been wearing multiple hats while in charge of a large POD at Letcher County Central High School in Whitesburg.
It was important for Dyal to be a part of the mission since he graduated from Letcher County Central High School. He had numerous contacts there that enabled him to provide maximum assistance to the populace and best support all the troops assigned to missions there.
"I know the area very well," said Dyal. "I know where those hard-to-reach areas were, so I could send my mobile team up and prioritize better. Along with working with the emergency director and the county judge, we could point out and carry out supply missions and find people that hadn't had contact in a few days faster than what normally would have happened if we had done it in sectors."
As the liaison officer, his primary mission is moving the PODs away from the high schools to alternate locations and helping community leaders through the continued flood response.
"I'm working directly with the country judge, the emergency management team and the sheriff to get the community back to a self-sufficient state," he said. "My goal and mission are specifically to reach self-sustainment in the shortest amount possible and keep our presence to a minimum."
He also said that getting the local schools back in order will help bring back normalcy that will help the community get back on its feet.
"I was incredibly impressed with his professionalism, knowledge, critical thinking and interpersonal skills," said Col. Tim Starke, 75th Troop Command commander and Director of Operation for the KYNG, upon meeting Dyal.
Starke was in the area surveying damage caused by the flood and was proud of Dyal's ability to take on as much responsibility as he has.
Dyal has served in the Kentucky Guard since 2013 and currently lives in Richmond, Ky., with his wife. He and his wife weren't directly affected by the flooding, but he has several relatives whose roads to their homes were washed out or damaged.
"My grandparents, uncles, aunts and pretty much that whole side of my family live in Letcher County and they had their road completely wiped out in four different locations," he said.
Despite the damaged roads, he says he's glad that no one in his family was injured and that he was able to help them.
One of the leaders that came out to visit the units on the ground was Dyal's command sergeant major, who made it a point to come by to see him personally.
"He is resilient, mission-focused, and without a doubt a selfless service leader," said Command Sgt. Maj. Aaron Lester, 149th MEB Operations Sergeant Major. "Most evenings, he spent his time assisting his family in the area recover from the damages they sustained during the flooding, and coordinating missions for the next day with Soldiers serving in the area."
He went on to say the Dyal was instrumental to the Kentucky National Guard's success in Letcher County with his daily coordination between local officials and the Guard. He was able to meet their needs and support PODs, including ensuring that supplies were being delivered to areas that could not get out due to roads being inaccessible.
Thanks to the hard work of Dylan and his unit, the people in Letcher county and surrounding areas are on their way to getting back to as normal as they can. And once the job is done, Dyal can return to his normalcy.