Tech. Sgt. Patrick Williams uses a chainsaw to clear fallen trees blocking roadways April 26, 2011, in Vilonia, Ark., after a tornado caused severe damage April 25. Sergeant Williams is an aerial porter technician assigned to the 189th Airlift Wing's Rapid Augmentation Team Charlie. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dianna Seerey)
Tech. Sgt. Kevin Burrow knocks on a resident's door April 26, 2011, in Vilonia, Ark., during patrols after the community sustained damage to homes, power lines and businesses. Sergeant Burrows is a member of the 189th Airlift Wing's Rapid Augmentation Team Charlie patrol that checks on residents after severe weather damage. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dianna Seerey)
by 1st Lt. Chris Nelson
189th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
4/28/2011 - LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. (AFNS) -- More than 50 Airmen from the Arkansas Air National Guard 189th Airlift Wing Rapid Augmentation Team Charlie deployed to Vilonia, Ark., April 26 to help residents recover from tornado damage.
RAT Charlie is one of three 50-person teams composed of drill-status guardsmen. It's a volunteer force wing officials developed to more efficiently respond to state natural disasters.
"We're doing all of this while we're also deploying Airmen to support the overseas war effort, while our day-to-day C-130 (Hercules) training mission continues uninterrupted," said Col. Jim Summers, the 189th Airlift Wing commander. "This is a prime example of how flexible our Air National Guard is, but it takes the support of those external influencers -- employers and a guardsman's family -- for it to continue to work. I can't say enough about how employers and families have stepped up to the plate to support their guardsmen when they're needed most."
The team deployed with six HUMVEEs, a backhoe, dump truck, two stake-bed trucks and several multi-passenger pick-ups. The members used six generators, multiple radios and chainsaws.
"Last night, the team provided security and patrolled the roads throughout Vilonia and today the mission has changed to search and rescue," said Lt. Col. Dean B. Martin, the 189th Airlift Wing RAT domestic operations chief.
Traditionally, the Arkansas Army National Guard has been responsible for deploying first responders for natural disasters, officials said. Now, the Air National Guard also has the opportunity to help Arkansans in their time of need.
"We're going door to door to make sure everyone is ok and accounted for," Colonel Martin said. "We are all members of this Arkansas community, and it is so great to be able to provide help to our fellow neighbors."
The RAT members were placed into four task forces to more efficiently help the Vilonia residents, he said. They teamed up with Soldiers to provide an experienced joint effort.
The origin of the RAT team evolved from one guardsman's experiences of being called to state active duty under similar circumstances and seeing room for improvement.
Teams are rotated seasonally which allows members to deal with snow, ice, heat or whatever issues a season may bring. This means that no one person will be out of their duty section for the whole year.
4/29/2011 2:06:44 PM ET My heartfelt thanks and congratulations to the Arkansas ANG for a job well done. Having been stationed at Little Rock AFB in the early 80's I know how everyone joins in to support a broken community and make it whole again. My wife and I were there when a tornado hit cabot and broke it up pretty good. God Bless and keep up the outstanding work... Jonathon W. Carter TSgt USAF Ret.