Oct. 9, 2018
By Rick Rothacker
As Florence churned toward the East Coast as a massive Category 4 hurricane, Walt Knott got the call: The South Carolina State Guard needed him to help coordinate humanitarian and rescue operations once the monster storm struck.
In his day job, Knott is a regulatory compliance manager for Bank of America Merchant Services, working remotely from his home in Charleston, S.C. But in the days ahead, the 47-year-old captain would be donning fatigues and manning a Tactical Operations Center (TOC) based on the campus of The Citadel.
Charleston, fortunately, ended up faring well in the storm, suffering relatively little damage. But the northeast corner of South Carolina and neighboring portions of North Carolina sustained a catastrophic blow from a hurricane that brought fierce winds and historic flooding.
People have been grateful for the helping hand in a time of need, Knott said.
“Every time you pick somebody up, it’s a victory,” he said. “They’re glad to be picked up and brought back to shelter.”
'Trained and ready since 1670'
Knott took a circuitous route to Bank of America Merchant Services. After graduating from N.C. State, the Asheboro, N.C., native pursued jobs in financial planning and real estate development before going to law school and landing a legal operational risk job at Bank of America in 2011. About five years later, he moved to Bank of America Merchant Services.
Knott had always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps by serving his country, so last year he decided to join the South Carolina State Guard, the state defense force that boasts it’s been “trained and ready since 1670.”
“For some reason or another, it was never the right time," he said. "I finally made the commitment.”
In his regular guard role, Knott serves as executive officer for the South Carolina State Guard Military Academy at McCrady Training Center at Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C. He oversees classes for guardsmen one weekend a month.
Knott sees similarities between his day job as a risk manager and his position in the guard, where risks are assessed for each mission.
“It’s so similar,” he said. “In one field, you wear a suit. In the other, you wear a uniform, or as my daughter calls it, an outfit.”
After being called up for Florence, Knott worked 12-hour shifts at the TOC, serving as a duty officer for the 1st Civil Support Brigade. He and his fellow team members planned and monitored rescue and relief missions in the coastal stretch of the state that includes Myrtle Beach.
While Knott was based at the TOC, some of his colleagues faced even more challenging situations in the field. In an effort to distribute vital supplies, they were deployed to patches of dry land surrounded by encroaching waters.
“They volunteered to sit on an island and not knowing if the island will shrink,” he said.
While called up, Knott was able to go home at night because he lives near the TOC. He and his wife, Amanda, have three children. His 5-year-old daughter said he was at “Army Camp.”
During his time away from work, Bank of America Merchant Services was very supportive of his service, Knott said. “They have been great,” he said.
First Civil Support Brigade Headquarters staff, including Walt Knott (second from left) at the Charleston Citadel TOC, tracking South Carolina State Guard personnel deployed across the South Carolina coastal region prior to landfall.
Walt Knott and his wife, Amanda, have three children: Margaret Worth, Tripp and Jack (a student at Christ School in Asheville, N.C.).
Capt. Walt Knott delivering the morning briefing to students at the SCSG Military Academy.