Missouri Army National Guard family members toughed out over 96 hours straight in the cold weather to support their soldiers throughout the Vigilant Guard training exercise at the Columbia armory.
Vigilant Guard is a statewide exercise, which ran Nov. 3-7. It was designed to test the National Guard response to a large magnitude earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone in southeast Missouri. Under the exercise scenario, public utilities have been disrupted and there is widespread infrastructure damage across the entire region. Missouri Guard units from around the state participated.
As part of the exercise, about 60 members of the 735th Field Service Company, located in De Soto with a detachment in Rolla, combed through rubble piles at Boone County Fire District Missouri Task Force 1 Training Center and performed victim search and extraction as part of the Region 7 Homeland Response Force.
Members of the 735th Field Service Company’s Family Readiness Group went above and beyond when 1st Sgt. James Harrell asked them for support a week before hosting Vigilant Guard training exercises. Norma Burns, Krystal Harrell and Shari Orrick took the challenge.
“It was a very long four days,” said Orrick, the group leader who lives in De Soto. “Our first sergeant asked us last Friday to put this together, and it took about two days to secure all the supplies.”
Donations from Walmart, Sam’s Club, Save-a-Lot, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Frito Lay, and Applebee’s, were sold at the Vigilant Guard training event to raise money for the group and to help soften the harsh and stressful conditions of training.
“Our group is slowly but surely getting up off the ground,” said Orrick. “When we joined the unit four years ago they were looking for someone to fill the group leader position and we’ve been trying to get more people involved since.”
The same was true for Harrell, who started as the group leader for the 735th in Rolla last month.
“Soldiers and their families want to be able to have help, but we are building the program from the ground up, and it’s very time consuming because it’s me and one other girl at our unit,” said Harrell.
An event as large as Vigilant Guard gives more people an opportunity to get involved with the group. The three pulled long shifts through the day and night just as the soldiers did — taking turns napping for a few hours on a cot inside the armory.
“We started at noon Saturday and will be out here until the end of the training,” said Burns, whose husband is Sgt. 1st Class Dave Ellison.
“Everything we earn goes back into FRG to put on more fundraisers and for the annual Christmas party, two family days held throughout the year and for soldiers who are in need,” said Orrick.
Page 2 of 2 - The group puts on small events throughout the year including bake sales, silent auctions, car washes, family days — all things to raise money to recycle back into the program to help soldiers and their families.
“My goal is not only to be there for the soldiers but for the families as well, so that they know that we are here if they need anything,” said Harrell. “We are that resource.”
“We would like to thank everyone on the ground with everything, said Orrick. “If it wasn’t for their support we wouldn’t have been able to do this.”