October Chaplain's Reflections
By Capt. (Ch.) Matthew Gray, 169th Fighter Wing
/ Published October 01, 2018
MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
“Semper Primus” - Always First means that we must always be ready to respond at a moment’s notice to a national or state emergency. Whether providing razor-sharp lethality to protect our nations interest or selfless compassionate assistance to help our fellow South Carolinians. This past month, we did both simultaneously with flawless execution from our Air Expeditionary Force deployment downrange and our Hurricane Florence response and relief here at home.
It looked as if we were square in the sites of Hurricane Florence as she took a turn south. We prepared for the worst and prayed for the best. Over 1,700 Soldiers and Airmen left their civilian jobs and families to brace for a direct impact of cataclysmic proportions. The Emergency Operations Center and Joint Operations Center were abuzz with activity as leadership strategized the logistics of the operation. McEntire was a swarm of activity with our F-16 fighter jets flying out of harm’s way, helicopters carrying water and supplies, water rescue teams coming in and out, and our own 169th Security Forces Squadron team mobilizing to Florence, where the brunt of the storm was expected. Our Airmen and Soldiers bravely stood up and ran into harm’s way to provide relief. Many sleepless nights at the South Carolina Emergency Management Division were had as we stood watch, waiting to see when and where the hurricane would make landfall. As fate would have it, the hurricane lost much of its strength and what was thought to be a certain catastrophic event, turned out to be better than expected. Our strategic planning and readiness to answer the call helped save lives and homes for many of our fellow South Carolinians but also for our fellow Swamp Foxes.
While the brunt of the storm has passed. Sadly not all of our Airmen were saved from catastrophic flooding. Some, especially those who live in the northwestern part of our state, have incurred damage from the storm. Their homes flooded, property damaged, and lives forever changed. Our duty to them is paramount and we must remain vigilant in being ready to come to their aid by reaching out to them with a helping hand, financial support, kind word, or prayers of support and healing. Those known to be in need have been directed to our Family Readiness and Assistance Office at 1-800-317-5553. If you or another Airman you know are in need, please do not hesitate to reach out. The Chaplains and Religious Affairs Airmen stand ready to help you or your families any way that we can. Self-care is key to resilience! Remain always ready to be a good wingman for an Airman and help them in their need. We, as a Swamp Fox family will always look out after one another so that we will remain the healthy fighting force we are. Always first to the fight; always first to provide needed relief.