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NEWS | Sept. 6, 2017

Army Reserve continues assistance in aftermath of Harvey

By Spc. Kaitlin Waxler 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)

The U.S. Army Reserve’s 373rd Combat Sustainment Support Brigade assisted local authorities here beginning August 29, 2017, during relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Capt. Tabitha Williams, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company for the 373rd CSSB, directed Army Reserve Soldiers on multiple missions under Defense Support of Civil Authority (DSCA) to administer aid for people affected by the catastrophic hurricane.

“(DSCA) allows us, as federal assets, to assist local civilian authorities in times of disaster,” explained Williams. “My role is to accept the DSCA mission and orchestrate our Soldiers in ways that will be the most useful.”

Williams coordinated Soldiers in her company, as well as those with the 348th Transportation Battalion.

“Our Soldiers are providing capabilities to travel through high water and collect multiple citizens,” Williams said. “They’re providing expertise and efficiency while collaborating with the Beaumont Fire Department and Police Department.”

Although the circumstances were less than ideal, the Army Reserve Soldiers were prepared and equipped for the mission. Water levels continued to rise throughout the week, and but the skills that Soldiers acquired during previous training events proved to be effective.

“They are well-trained, licensed, and experienced drivers in these vehicles, but the conditions of driving in so many feet of water—it is new to the Soldiers,” explained Williams. “Even though there were so many variables, basic soldiering skills allowed us to adapt and overcome, and we were successful in that.”

The primary focus for the Soldiers was to assist in high-water rescues. Many people in the Beaumont area chose not to evacuate their homes, so the Fire Department and Soldiers made frequent trips to check up and ensure their safety.

Fire Capt. Cody Theriot, leader of Beaumont Fire Department’s Strike Team 3, said that the efforts and resources put forth by the U.S. Army Reserve were critical in life-saving missions.

“The Reserve has been a big help. The Soldiers want to jump in and help local authorities, and it’s been outstanding,” says Theriot. “They’re driving [military tactical vehicles] for us. As we’ve needed help in the water, they’ve been jumping in with us and helping to rescue people. They’re really doing a great job at getting us where we need to go.”

U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Beau Burkhead, a water purification specialist with the 373rd CSSB, drove Strike Team 3 around the flooded city, and tried to eat and rest at the fire station in between calls.

“When opportunity arises and local officials can use the Reserve, we stay as long as they need us,” said Burkhead. “This is a great, real-life experience for Reserve Soldiers. Getting to apply everything we learn in training…it puts a real sense of purpose to all of this.”

U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Ronald Allen, a unit supply specialist with the 373rd CSSB, explained just how large of an impact the team had on rescue missions.

“There were at least 150 adults and 100 kids, along with 15 animals,” explained Allen. “That was the first day. The other vehicles were only able to carry three people at a time, and ours could transport twenty-five to thirty people at a time.”

By the end of operations, U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers had assisted in over 700 evacuations of citizens, 170 animals, and transported over 100 emergency personnel to critical locations.

The 373rd Combat Sustainment Support Brigade and 348th Transportation Battalion are parts of the 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary). The command has units throughout Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. As part of America’s Army Reserve, these units are trained, combat-ready and equipped to provide military and logistical support in any corner of the globe.