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Iowa National Guard Troops Support Tornado-Relief Mission

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 29, 2008 – About 175 Iowa National Guard soldiers and airmen are serving on state active duty in support of tornado-relief and -recovery missions for northeastern Iowa.

The servicemembers were activated the evening of May 26 and the next morning following tornadoes and severe storms in the Butler County area May 25. It is estimated the soldiers and airmen will remain on duty for the next several days.

With numerous power lines down, leakage from damaged vehicles, severed natural gas lines, debris, rubble and unstable structures, about 160 soldiers from 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry, are providing security and aiding local officials in recovery efforts at Parkersburg. The battalion headquarters is in Waterloo, with subordinate units in Dubuque, Oelwein, Charles City, and Iowa Falls.

"I'm no stranger to tornado damage, but I've never seen anything like this," said Army Spc. Erik A. Borseth, a medic with the 1st Battalion's Headquarters Company. He has been treating Guard soldiers for blisters and minor cuts, and he's been going out on night patrols with other members of the 133rd.

"It feels good to be here,” Borseth said, "like we're accomplishing something for these Parkersburg people. That's our job. That's what we're here to do. That's how Iowans are."

The southern half of Parkersburg, a farming community of about 1,700, has been virtually flattened, but the northern half remains largely intact with some damage to the infrastructure, reported Rick Breitenfeldt of the National Guard Bureau.

Most National Guard personnel are performing security missions, primarily during the curfew hours of 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., Breitenfeldt added. Other duties include providing power to the incident command center at a badly damaged fire station in the town and staffing a communications center for emergency personnel.

"If I could do more, I would. The damage is overwhelming and surreal," said Iowa Army Guard Maj. Jay W. Lohmann, team chief for the Guard's communications center. "Private citizens keep approaching me, asking for permission to do things. I can't give them that permission, because the Guard is supporting civilian agencies. But it tells me that the public respects and appreciates the job that the National Guard is doing."

About 15 additional soldiers and airmen from 67th Troop Command, from Iowa City; Joint Forces Headquarters and 734th Regional Support Group, from Johnston; 133rd Test Squadron, from Fort Dodge; 132nd Fighter Wing, from Des Moines; and Iowa Air National Guard Headquarters, also from Johnston, are providing communications support, transporting water, creating emergency electrical power, and providing operational support.

In addition, the Iowa National Guard armory in Waterloo is being used as an operations center for American Red Cross relief efforts.

Many of the Guard soldiers are veterans of the war in Iraq and other aspects of the global war on terrorism. "Now we're helping the people in our own state. That feels good," said one soldier who was satisfied to be serving at home.

(From a National Guard Bureau news release.)

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