Above, SHAD ROMANS poses in front of Air Force One in North Carolina while he was helping out during Hurricane Florence, though he did not see the president. Below is a group of people Romans helped rescue and transport from a flooded neighborhood. (Photos courtesy of Shad Romans)
By Anna Jauhola
Shad Romans enjoys being able to use his training as a helicopter pilot and Minnesota National Guardsman. So, when the authorities that be asked for volunteers to fly rescue, transport and supply missions during Hurricane Florence earlier this year, Romans stepped up.
“This is the kind of stuff I look forward to doing,” he said. “You can go and do training, but a lot of people I work with, we look forward to putting our skills and training to use.”
Romans – a 2004 Kittson Central graduate – is a chief warrant officer 2 and has piloted Chinook helicopters for the Minnesota National Guard since 2013. He served in the infantry for nine years prior to that, with one tour of duty in Iraq.
During Hurricane Florence, Romans and his crew – which included two flight engineers, a crew chief and another pilot – operated out of Raleigh-Durham Airport in North Carolina alongside several other states’ Guard members. They mostly transported support personnel to locations closer to affected areas.
One group of 15 hauled inflatable boats and outboard motors, along with rescue equipment on board the Chinook. Romans transported that group at night using night vision goggles to fly to a flooded area where the team performed search and rescue among residences.
At one point during the week, Romans’ team deployed at night to an area where a levy was breaking. They transported 25 personnel, two children and about seven dogs from a grassy field next to a church and brought them to another airfield where friends or family picked them up.
“A lot of them were very thankful,” he said. “But at the same time, it was a very stressful time for them. If you think about it, their houses were flooded, their personal possessions washed away. There was a lot of crying and concerned looks. Once we were at the airport, they were very thankful and appreciative to us.”
When they weren’t running missions, Romans’ team was on call throughout the day. If a mission came up that required a Chinook helicopter, they’d gear up and move out.
“At the time, a lot of roads were under water and no one could get around by vehicle,” Romans said. “Other Chinooks did supply missions. Until the water was low enough, aviation missions were really important.”
Romans knew he wanted to be a helicopter pilot in elementary school after the Minnesota National Guard flew a Huey helicopter to the elementary school.
“That really piqued my interest and I had always wanted to be in the military,” he said.
His road to become a pilot came after he’d spent time in the National Guard infantry. When the opportunity arose to apply for flight school, Romans got Lasik surgery to improve his vision and was approved. He attended 1 ½ years of flight school in Alabama.
“And here I am,” he said.
When Romans is not participating in special missions, he works for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad as a train conductor. He lives in Spicer, Minn., with his wife Chelsey – also a 2004 KC graduate – and their two children, Truitt and Gia.