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NEWS | Aug. 12, 2022

Soldier uses local ties to help bring community back from flooding

By Sgt. 1st. Class Benjamin Crane, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

As flood waters rose in Eastern Kentucky, the call went out to the National Guard that their help was going to be needed.

In the hours following the first rainfall, hundreds of Kentucky Guard Soldiers were called on to provide rescue operations, supply distribution and security.

For Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Dyal from 577th Engineer Company, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, he was eager to answer that call for help. He has been working at several point of distribution (POD) sites, making sure residents receive water and supplies. He has been wearing multiple hats while in charge of a very large POD at Letcher County Central High School in Whitesburg.

It was important for Dyal to be a part of the mission since he graduated from Letcher County Central High School and has numerous contacts there that enabled him not only to provide maximum assistance to the populace, but also to best support all of the troops assigned to missions there.

“I know the area very well,” said Dyal. “I know where those hard-to-reach areas already were, so I was able to send my mobile team up in there and prioritize a little better. Along with working with emergency director and the county judge, we were able to point out and carry out supply missions and find people that hadn't had contact in a few days faster than probably what normally would have happened if we would have done it in sectors.”

Currently as the liaison officer, his main mission is moving the POD’s away from the high schools to alternate locations as well as helping community leaders through the continued flood response.

“I'm working directly with the county judge, the emergency management team and the sheriff to get the community back to a self-sufficient state,” he said. “My goal and mission is specifically to reach self-sustainment in the shortest amount possible and keep our presence to a minimum.”

He also said that getting the local schools back in order will help bring back normalcy that will help the community get back on its feet.

“I was incredibly impressed with his professionalism, knowledge, critical thinking and interpersonal skills,” said Col. Tim Starke, 75th Troop Command commander and Director of Operation for the KYNG upon meeting Dyal.

Starke was in the area surveying damage caused by the flood and was proud of Dyal’s ability take on as much responsibility as he has.
Dyal, has served in the Kentucky Guard since 2013 and currently lives in Richmond, Ky. with his wife. He and his wife weren’t directly affected by the flooding, but he has several relatives whose roads to their homes were washed out or damaged.

“My grandparents, uncles, aunts and pretty much that whole side of my family live in Letcher County and they had their road wiped pretty much completely wiped out in four different locations,” he said.

Despite the damaged roads, he says he’s glad that no one in his family was injured and he was able to help them.

Another one of the leaders that came out to visit the units on the ground Dyal’s command sergeant major who made it a point to personally come by to see him.

“He is resilient, mission focused, and without a doubt a selfless service leader,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Aaron Lester, 149th MEB Operations Sergeant Major.  “Most evenings he spent his time assisting his family in the area recover from the damages that they sustained during the flooding, and coordinating missions for the next day with Soldiers serving in the area.”

He went on to say the Dyal was instrumental to the success the Kentucky National Guard had in Letcher County with his daily coordination between local officials and the Guard. He was able to meet their needs and provide support to PODs to include ensuring that supplies were being delivered to areas that could not get out due to roads being inaccessible. 

Thanks to the hard work by Dyal and his unit, the people in Letcher county and surrounding areas are on their way to getting back to as normal as they can. And once the job is done, Dyal can get back to his own normalcy.
 

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