News 12 at 11 O'clock / Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013
EVANS, G.A. (WRDW) - It can strike when you least expect it.
Disasters on every level: Flooding, tornado's, hurricanes.
"People that are in distress, they're relying on you," says Sargent Cody Turner with the Georgia State Defense Force.
Those folks are relying on soldiers like Turner, who's no stranger to catastrophe.
"Fresh out of basic training, actually I was activated and sent to hurricane Katrina," he told News 12's Patrick Price.
He remembers what the devastation looked like. He remembered the lives he helped save.
"Pretty horrific thing, you know 18 years old, got there, they said we got about 1800 plus people that are missing, and we need to go find them," said Turner.
He's not a first responder with the defense force, an agency that's been around for more than 80 years, serving a community that doesn't even know they exist.
"If something happened here in Augusta and we get on scene, you'd have everybody from your community well trained, working along side with other people with the Columbia County EMA system," he said.
Captain Todd Gallagher knows the power is in the numbers. He says, "We have about 750 soldiers in the state defense force in Georgia alone."
But this force is different. They're not the National Guard, they're not the Army. They volunteer unpaid, protecting the community if and when disaster strikes.
"Anything that the National Guard does, we can do," said Gallagher.
And they can do it quicker. Gallagher says what might take days even weeks for national guard to respond to a disaster, would only take hours for them.
National Guard soldiers have to wait for activation by the president which is cause for delay. The defense force can be deployed quicker just by states approval.
"With state active duty, the state at its own discretion can activate you, and this is where the state defense force comes in," he said.
And hundreds of soldiers across the state can respond.
It's a comforting feeling for Pam Tucker with Columbia County EMA.
"It's an added resource to our long list of resources for disaster," she explained to News 12. "I hope we never need them, but should we, we are very comforted in knowing they're going to come with equipment and training to help us out."
An added sense of satisfaction for soldiers like Turner whose' help means more than just saving time.
"It's a good thing to be able to help out in such a degree that it could change somebodies life or even save it," said Turner.
Turner and his fellow soldiers will be holding an information session on Saturday, October 19, lasting from 10 am to 2 pm.
For more information on what they do in our area, please visit their website.