FLORENCE, SC, UNITED STATES
Story by Master Sgt. Caycee Watson
Tropical Storm Florence dropped historic amounts of rain in areas of South Carolina, causing significant damage to areas from rising floodwaters.
The security forces Airmen are tasked to integrate with local law enforcement to conduct search and rescue missions as well as high water rescue operations as flooding impacted the area.
“We teamed up with Florence County Sheriff’s Department and as soon as we got here, most of our guys actually went out on patrol,” said Master Sgt. Chad Peebles, 169th Security Forces Squadron investigations noncommissioned officer in charge.
A mandatory evacuation was placed in areas along Black Creek in Florence County, where floodwaters were anticipated to crest and impact the area for several days.
“We’re doing 18-20 hour operations. Some of our guys linked up with the special operations group with Florence County and we were doing mandatory evacuations from the flooded areas while the other guys maintained the law enforcement mission out on the road with patrols,” said Peebles.
After residents are ordered to evacuate, law enforcement presence is maintained with the mission shifting to protect property and safeguard those that decided to stay.
“Being out here, being in place, being able to respond when people say, ‘you know what, we do need help,’ that’s why we’re here,” said Tech. Sgt. Kenvyn Lewis, 169th Security Forces Squadron standards and evaluations noncommissioned officer in charge. “We’re here to help, even when people don’t understand the dangers that they’re actually in.”
The security forces Airmen at McEntire train alongside local law enforcement on a regular basis, which enabled a seamless transition to integrate with Florence County law enforcement.
“We’ve got some great Americans and South Carolinians standing up to take care of their fellow citizens. They’re taking risks, it’s managed risk, and they’re taking that risk to save lives,” said Col. Akshai Gandhi, the 169th Fighter Wing commander. “Our job in a domestic environment is to take care of our fellow citizens.”
Peebles said today, as the floodwaters continue to increase, so do the missions to get citizens to safety.
Approximately 3,200 South Carolina National Guard Soldiers and Airmen and 100 State Guard have been mobilized to prepare, respond and participate in recovery efforts as Tropical Storm Florence has caused flooding and damage to the state.