James Schlehuber serves as military scout for county

Staff reporter

To Kansas Air National Guard Master Sergeant James Schlehuber, serving his country also means serving his county.

And he did just that during the December 2007 ice storms.

When the call went out from Marion County Emergency Management Director Michele Abbott-Becker, Schlehuber responded with guardsmen to assist volunteers and emergency responders.

Teams went door-to-door to check county residents and provided emergency generators.

Schlehuber also was the one who received a telephone call early that Sunday morning, Dec. 16, to determine the best possible location for a Blackhawk military helicopter to land.

"I had an hour to plan the landing site and arrange for county officials to be there," Schlehuber said, which he wanted to be in Marion.

The best-suited location was the helicopter pad at St. Luke Hospital. Although the military helicopter was larger than medical helicopters, the pilot made a pinpoint perfect landing in a midst of swirling snow.

The purpose of the helicopter landing was for military and state emergency management officials to meet with county officials regarding the ice storms that paralyzed parts of the county, putting residents in the dark and cold with no electricity for days, some for weeks. The officials took an aerial tour of the county to assess damages.

For the past 20 years, Schlehuber has served both in the Active Duty Air Force and Kansas Air National Guard. For the past four years, he has served as a scout for Marion County, which is in Region 4 with 18 other counties and scouts.

In case of disaster — natural or man-made — Schlehuber is responsible for assisting Marion County with the necessary resources when the county's resources are expended.

Schlehuber, a 1984 Marion High School graduate, volunteered for the job.

"They wanted someone from the county to serve in this capacity because that person would know the county better than someone who isn't local," Schlehuber said. If he isn't available to serve, the Butler County scout would assist Marion County.

The scout serves as a liaison between the state emergency management headquarters in Topeka, the primary command center at McConnell Air Force Base Wichita, and Marion County Civil Authority.

The chain of service begins with Abbott-Becker requesting assistance through the Internet.

On Dec. 15, Schlehuber said the request came to him at 11 a.m., and guardsmen were in Marion County in a matter of a few hours.

The master sergeant uses a manual with directives and resources for various situations.

Schlehuber also has served two tours in the Middle East, returning home in September from the latest deployment. He anticipates being deployed again within the next year.

"I'm proud to serve my country and want to serve the residents of the county where I live," Schlehuber said.

Schlehuber and wife Heather live in rural Marion County. They have three children, Elise, 6, Gabriella, 4, and Magdalen, 2, and are expecting their fourth child.