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Guard Wades Into Indiana Flooding

By Army Spc. Thaddeus Harrington
Special to American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va. , Sept. 17, 2008 – About 180 Indiana National Guard soldiers and airmen are supporting relief missions during massive flooding in northern Indiana.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Staff Sgt. Travis Hackett with the Indiana National Guard’s 738th Medical Company of Monticello, Ind., navigates a dark and slippery stairwell of a flooded nursing home, assisted by a member of the Munster Fire Department. Guardsmen helped to evacuate more than 150 patients from the Munster Medical Inn. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael B. Krieg, Indiana National Guard

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Rain began to fall for 48 hours Sept. 11, caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ike as it passed through the Midwest. Ike's leftovers moved through Indiana carrying winds of 50 mph. Six to eight inches of heavy rain and high winds downed many power lines, reportedly leaving more than 87,000 people without electricity.

So far, Guard members have evacuated more than 5,000 people.

Initially, 40 Guardsmen were activated on Sept. 14 to assist the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. Led by Army Lt. Col. Paul South, commander of the 113th Engineer Battalion, Indiana Guard personnel have been placing sandbags, providing security, conducting search-and-rescue missions and assisting local authorities. They also have provided equipment such as generators, aircraft, sandbag machines and high-water vehicles.

"The biggest task we have is getting hold of the incident planner at the location and determining their immediate needs,” South said today. “Then we're looking into the near future and setting ourselves up to meet the follow-on needs before it really becomes a need."

The Guardsmen come from several units, including Joint Forces Headquarters, the 81st Troop Command, the 38th Infantry Division, the 219th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade and the 738th Medical Company.

During the evacuation of the Munster Medical Inn, a nursing facility 30 miles from Chicago, Guardsmen from the 81st Troop Command helped the local fire department evacuate 150 people from the five-story building. The soldiers assisted wheelchair-bound patients down several flights of stairs during the evacuation.

The Indiana National Guard will continue its search-and-rescue missions, power generation, sandbagging and evacuation operations. Guardsmen also are helping to make the interstate highways passable.

"It's been a good experience for my guys, and a good experience for the Guard," South said. "We love doing this stuff, and we're glad we're here.” But he looks forward to the mission being complete, he added.

“I'd like to see these guys get dry and get home in northwest Indiana," he said.

(Army Spc. Thaddeus Harrington serves at the National Guard Bureau.)

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