Local leaders have honored members of the 141st Air Refueling Wing for their efforts in helping with search and recovery operations in Oso in the wake of the deadly mudslide last month that claimed 41 lives.
More than 70 airmen from Fairchild Air Force Base responded to Oso within days of the mudslide and spent their time assisting in the search and recovery efforts. One of those airmen was Sergeant Caleb Guthimiller, who deployed to Oso four days after the slide hit.
“I didn't expect anything like what we saw. I don't think anything could prepare you for the amount of mud and debris that was moved down there,” he said.
“The best way to describe it is almost like quick sand. Every step was quite a struggle, every time you had to take a step to search. A lot of it was done literally on hands and knees in some areas because you would sink so deep you couldn't hardly get out of it,” he added.
Guardsmen with the 141st spent 10 days in Oso.
“By the time we left everything had been searched, we were able to drain out a lot of the standing water, and areas we previously weren't able to get to we were able to open up,” Guthimiller said.
For the efforts of the Guardsmen who served in Oso, the Spokane City Council honored the 141st Air Refueling Wing in a statement, read by City Council Ben Stuckart, which said:
“These Air National Guard members are our neighbors, our friends, and colleagues. The work they did in Snohomish County was honorable and represented our community well. We want to personally say thank you."
Guthimiller said this is exactly why he signed up for the Guard.
“To be recognized for something like this is not something we are used to. We're just used to doing our normal day-to-day job,” he said. “I'm proud to be part of something like that, you want to be there to help the community, help the people that had been touched by it.”