Vehicles loaded with sticks along road.

Courtesy photo

Ohio National Guard members use a front-end loader to fill a dump truck during a February-March 2021 activation to Southern Ohio to clear debris left behind following an ice storm. About 100 Soldiers and Airmen hauled away nearly 500 dump truck loads of debris during the 15-day deployment to Lawrence and Gallia counties.

Ohio National Guard completes cleanup mission in Southern Ohio

Story by Stephanie Beougher, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs

COLUMBUS, Ohio (3/10/21)

Ohio National Guard members have completed a mission in Southern Ohio where they helped clear nearly 230 miles of roadway during a 15-day activation.

Gov. Mike DeWine directed Ohio National Guard members to assist with ice storm cleanup and debris removal in Gallia and Lawrence counties. Approximately 60 Soldiers from the Ohio Army National Guard’s 1191st Engineer Company, based in Portsmouth, and 40 Airmen from the Ohio Air National Guard’s 200th RED HORSE (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operations Repair Squadron Engineers) Squadron, based in Port Clinton and with a detachment in Mansfield, began supporting local authorities on Feb. 21 and finished on March 7.

Ditch before cleanup.

Ditch before cleanup

Ditch after cleanup.

Ditch after cleanup

“The Airmen and Soldiers showed a lot of flexibility when faced with challenges, including flooding, to get the job done. It’s a great example of the level of professionalism our service members have,” said Ohio Army National Guard Lt. Col. Matthew Molinski, commander of the Guard’s joint task force that oversaw the support. “This was not just about clearing roads. We were there to help the residents in each of those counties. The community support we received was amazing, and we gained an appreciation for helping our fellow Ohioans in their time of need.”

The Soldiers and Airmen used chain saws, wood chippers, front-end loaders and other heavy equipment to clear away fallen trees and other debris clogging critical infrastructure. They hauled away about 490 loads in dump trucks.

“The deployment of the National Guard was a blessing to our county,” said Lawrence County Commissioner DeAnna Holliday. “We were faced with devastation after the ice storm that was affecting our residents’ quality of life. The National Guard’s organized efforts and quick pace were critical to restoring normalcy in a matter of days instead of months. The Guard members were so committed to their work that you would have thought they were working in their own neighborhoods.”

State Rep. Jason C. Stephens, whose Ohio House 93rd District includes Gallia County and part of Lawrence County, also praised the Ohio Guard’s assistance.

“We are so grateful to the Ohio National Guard’s swift response to aid our communities when we were hurting due to the devastating ice storms in February,” Stephens said. “We also appreciate the governor’s quick reaction to our request for help by personally visiting the area, witnessing the damage firsthand, and quickly calling in the National Guard. The Guard’s professionalism and positive attitude are just what our communities needed when we needed help the most.”

The Ohio National Guard has a long history of supporting the state during emergencies. In 1978, ONG Soldiers and Airmen were activated to provide support across all 88 counties following a severe blizzard that struck the state. In 2009, when the H1N1 Pandemic hit, the Guard answered Ohio’s call to duty, distributing vital antiviral medications and other medical supplies. Today, hundreds of Guard members are activated to assist in the state’s response to COVID-19 at food banks, vaccination clinics, and personal protective equipment (PPE) and vaccine warehouses.