When Hurricane Katrina wiped out entire communities in one quick sweep, people the world over were shocked by the devastation. We were even more shocked by the realization that people sat for days without help…hungry, thirsty, exhausted, injured, suffering and even dying.
Katrina brought two difficult realities to light:
- Both natural and human-inflicted disaster can strike faster and stronger than we could ever imagine or prepare for; and
- Our governments and relief organizations are not equipped to move quickly and efficiently, leaving a large gap in disaster assistance that cannot be ignored.
As most watched the horror unfold helplessly from their living rooms, the idea of Sheep Dog Impact Assistance (SDIA) began to take shape when founder SgtMaj Lance Nutt, a Marine in neighboring Arkansas, used years of emergency and logistical training to lead a strategic relief effort straight into the heart of the destruction – before most organizations were ready to mobilize. It was through this mission that SDIA was born.
The operation went like this:
Upon seeing the immense devastation, and the subsequent delay in relief getting to the victims, Nutt recognized the need at hand and made the decision to act. He quickly tapped his local network of businesses and friends for supplies; a truck and trailer were soon loaded down with water, blankets, MREs (military meals), and other supplies deemed most immediately needed.
Nutt then recruited the help of two others: his friend (a police officer and former Marine), and his father (a retired military officer and current RN). Both men were capable and willing to do whatever was needed onsite, whether clearing debris or rescuing people or simply handing out water. Their plan was to enter and assist, without becoming part of the problem. To Nutt, a professional in the logistical field, this meant strategic planning. They needed to determine which areas were hardest hit and still without help. They had to secure food and water to sustain them during their mission. They had to map out available routes that were clear enough to travel through. And they had to plan their fuel to ensure they would have enough gas to get back out once they delivered their supplies.
The mission to Pass Christian, Mississippi, was a successful effort. Half the supplies were dropped off at the fire station, which was serving as central headquarters – and was one of the few buildings left undamaged. The men hand-delivered the rest of the supplies to those in need, particularly elderly, handicapped and children who were identified as not able to find assistance. Perhaps it was a small effort — only a few people and one truck, after all — but it had a tremendous impact on those who were still days away from receiving any kind of assistance from large relief organizations. It was a small injection of life blood (“impact assistance”) to hold them over until major, long-term aid arrived.
On the way back to Arkansas, tired and dirty, but feeling extremely rewarded by the experience, the discussion invariably fell to the challenges of our modern disaster relief capabilities. As Nutt discussed his desire to help more in the future, the SDIA concept began to grow and take shape.
In 2010, Sheep Dog Impact Assistance received its nonprofit status and continued its disaster response work. Fast forward to 2014, and SDIA has become a sought after, ever-growing nonprofit organization formed around the skill sets of veterans and first responders, and comprised of these same people. They have the desire to help their communities…and the training to do so efficiently.
Since that first effort, SDIA has expanded its mission of deploying disaster response teams to include other continued service opportunities to assist fellow Sheep Dogs in need, outdoor adventures, and holiday programs. Offering these unique opportunities to our SDIA Members and Volunteers allows for our nation’s Sheep Dogs to continue their service, gives a renewed sense of purpose, and proves that “Helping Others is a Way of Life.”