SPOKANE – More than 70 Air National Guardsmen stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base have spent the past week in Oso helping the recovery effort after the mudslide.
Lt. Col. Curtis Puckett said the guardsmen have been working grueling days through uncooperative weather, sifting through swamp-like conditions to recover victims’ bodies and their belongings. He said it’s all about limiting the suffering for hundreds of surviving family members, many who have joined in the search.
“We’re all focused,” Puckett said. “To bring so many different organizations together and we are just so focused on bringing closure for families.”
The guardsmen have made the analogy that the landscape looks like someone picked up an entire neighborhood, threw it in a blender and dumped it out into the valley. Puckett said, in his 28-year career, nothing compares to what he has seen on the ground in Oso.
“It’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever done in my entire military career,” he said. “That is by far the truth.”
The hardest part for him has been discovering personal belongings. He had to take a moment to himself after finding some bags that belonged to a young man, he estimates about 16 or 17 years old.
“I have a son about that old and that just, that really hit me,” Puckett said. “Here, this young man and this poor family. In a matter of seconds: gone.”