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I never served in the military, but I had a very up-close-and-personal look at the Kentucky National Guard on Monday.
From time to time, the military invites members of the media to observe while they train, and that was the case Monday. Guardsmen were aware that a drill would be conducted, and they knew it would be on Monday, but they didn’t know the time.
The alert went out around 6 a.m. Monday, and the call told the soldiers to prepare to help with an approaching hurricane in Corpus Christi, Texas. The media members attending the event were aware, and we had been told to arrive in Louisville to depart with the guard via C-130 military transport planes.
As we arrived, the planes were already being loaded with the necessary equipment. The media members were ushered into a briefing room to learn more of the mission as the soldiers were also being informed. That’s when we all learned of a change. The drill was relocated, and although some of the soldiers were headed to Texas, others responded to a drill at Fort Campbell, Ky., where it was reported that an earthquake had occurred on the New Madrid Fault Line.
After some important instructions, we boarded the planes and took off.
The seating in the plane wasn’t what your typical air traveler might be used to seeing. There were no plush, first-class seats. Instead, it was a seat made of straps, much like cargo netting with seat belts. Fortunately, one of the colonels on the mission asked if any of us had been on a C-130 before, and by answering “no,” myself and another journalist were allowed to ride on the flight deck with the crew, watching the mission unfold from the nose of the plane with a true bird’s-eye view.
When we touched down at Fort Campbell, everything went into action quickly. The rear cargo door of the plane opened, and most of the soldiers exited. Those remaining on board unloaded the gear, including rough terrain vehicles, computer equipment for monitoring weather in the area, communications tools such as walkie talkies, and of course, food.
As with any mission of this type, the soldiers had to bring along their own food. It was MREs, or meals ready to eat, for the soldiers and the civilians on the mission. Most of the soldiers told us the MREs have improved over the years, but they still appeared to be tired of eating the prepackaged foods.
As for the media members, most of us enjoyed the experience. It was interesting to see how the soldiers prepare a hot meal on the go, but personally, I wouldn’t want to eat an MRE every day. It would definitely break me from being such a picky eater.
Watching the skills of the soldiers in action was impressive, and each one knew the role he played in the mission. It was clear the training was an invaluable part of the service these men do for our country.
We spent about three hours at Fort Campbell, and during that time, soldiers checked the condition of the runway at the airport. They also made plans for how anyone who was injured in an actual emergency would be treated and transported.
Once the drill was completed, it was time to pack up and go home. As quickly as it had been loaded and unloaded before, the gear was stowed back on the planes, the men boarded, and we were off the ground and Louisville bound.
The next time you hear of a natural disaster, or God forbid you experience one, think about the men and women who make up the National Guard.
In addition to those who are deployed to fight wars and serve our country abroad, there are others here in the states who leave their families for extended times during a dangerous situation and offer a much-needed helping hand, and they do it all by choice.
If you know a soldier, or if you just see one in public, take the time to say thank you. It’s the least we can do for those who do the most for us and our communities.