Matt Dodd of Fulton went to the Springfield area last weekend for a friend's wedding.
But in the next few days he was serving both as a volunteer fireman and as a newly deployed member of the Missouri National Guard assisting Joplin tornado victims.
As a volunteer fireman with the Central Fire Protection District in Fulton, Dodd decided to take his fire-fighting gear with him to the Springfield area and ride along Sunday afternoon with a friend at the Logan-Rogersville Fire Protection District.
"The Logan-Rogersville volunteers received a radio call for mutual aid to deal with the massive tornado in Joplin. So we started driving to Joplin," Dodd said.
But the trip to Joplin wasn't easy. Interstate 44 leading into Joplin was clogged with overturned vehicles and other debris from the tornado.
"Eight of us from the Logan-Rogersville fire protection district performed search and rescue duties in Joplin for 36 continuous hours," Dodd said.
Dodd said he and the seven other firemen in his group worked mainly the fringe area of the disaster. They checked the well-being of people in homes to determine if they had any problems or injuries that required assistance.
"The people of Joplin were really great. They offered to provide us anything we needed to continue working. They passed out hot dogs and hamburgers," Dodd said.
Dodd said he and others in his group did not rescue anyone from rubble because they worked mainly on the fringe area of the tornado in lightly damaged homes to check the well-being of residents.
But they did spend some time doing rescue work one morning with Task Force 1 searching through the rubble. "We were doing quick primary searches. But we didn't see anyone still trapped in the rubble," Dodd said.
"I've never seen anything like it. It was total devastation," Dodd said.
"The operations were shut down by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for two hours because two people were struck by lightning," Dodd said.
"At that point, everyone was given the option of going back home or continuing. Several of the volunteers from Logan-Rogersville had to go back to work so our group elected to return to our station," Dodd said.
Dodd returned home to Fulton last Tuesday and then last Wednesday about 50 members of his National Guard unit, the 1140th Military Police Company, were ordered to duty by Gov. Jay Nixon. The governor earlier in the week had activated other Guard units as well. The 1140th unit had been based in Fulton but now is based at an armory in Mexico, Mo.
"We arrived here in Joplin Thursday to provide support for local law enforcement," Dodd said.
Dodd said Saturday he and other members of the military police unit have been riding along with local and other law enforcement agencies to provide security around the tornado damaged area.
"We have set up traffic control points at major intersections to direct traffic. All of the electronic signals and former stop signs are gone," Dodd said.
A curfew has been established in the damaged area.
"We won't let people go into the area at night in order to help prevent looting," Dodd said.
Dodd said he does not know how long he will be in Joplin with the National Guard. He is a junior at Westminster College in Fulton.
Dodd has been a member of the Missouri National Guard for the last five years.
In 2009 Dodd and other members of the 1140th Military Police Company were deployed to Afghanistan and returned in 2010.
Dodd said he and other members of the unit spent much of their time in Afghanistan on a military base providing security.
"I can't compare duty in a war zone with our work down here in Joplin. It is two totally different things," Dodd said.
Caption: FULTON SUN file photo Sgt. Matt Dodd of Fulton is shown on the day his military police unit in Fulton was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. Since last Thursday, Dodd and about 50 other members of the military police unit have been deployed in Joplin to assist local law enforcement officers dealing with the aftermath of last Sunday's deadly tornado.
Reprinted with permission from The Fulton Sun.