The squadron were rapidly deployed to the region on 28 July to conduct rescue operations via boat and helicopter over the course of four days.
The team, which comprised 23 Special Operators, assisted by Callie, the Department of Defense’s (DOD) only certified search and rescue dog, also coordinated 29 rotary aircraft missions, recovered four bodies, and helped direct operations that led to the rescue or assistance of 40 more people.
“We found out about the situation Thursday morning at approximately 08:10 hrs,” said Major Ian Williams, 123rd STS Commander. “Before we had our tasking to respond, we started having our initial team show up to the squadron to prepare gear in the event that we would have to push out and support. We were officially told to support around 09:00 hrs and were out the door by 10:00 hrs.
Once called out, 17 STS members were deployed at ground level in boats and trucks, while six members and Callie departed onboard helicopters provided by the Kentucky Army National Guard’s (ANG) 63 Theater Aviation Brigade.
“Our success at the 123rd STS wouldn’t be possible without our mission support folks,” Williams added. “They’re the first to arrive at the unit when something happens because they know that the vehicles, boats, communication equipment and resupply coordination are make-or-break elements of this sort of mission.”
The rescue mission was a joint effort involving multiple agencies and civilian volunteer groups, including the Kentucky State Police and Army National Guard troops from Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. Two Kentucky ANG medevac crews left the Frankfort 28 July to augment Kentucky aviation assets already in the area, while Tennessee guard units sent five UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and crews, and West Virginia guard units contributed two Black Hawk helicopters, two UH-72 Lakota aircraft with hoist capability and 14 Soldiers.
The floods in eastern Kentucky, caused by an onslaught of torrential rain over the past week, has now claimed the lives of at least 37 people, including four children, and has resulted in significant property damage. Governor Andy Beshear warned on Monday that more dangerous weather was expected this week.
LifeFlight Australia also supported flood relief efforts in New South Wales earlier this year.