National Guardsmen Respond to States’ Weather Catastrophes
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 27, 2009 Members of the Minnesota, Colorado, North and South Dakota National Guards, as well as U.S. Northern Command, have responded to the effects of severe weather that has hit several states in the northern United States in the past several days.
Army Spc. Christopher M. Rasmussen works with civilian volunteers near the El Zagel Shrine and Masonic Temple in Fargo, N.D., March 26, 2009. Rasmussen and other North Dakota National Guard soldiers and airmen have been integrated with the civilian populace as they work together to fight the flood. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Dodds
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
After a week of filling sandbags and watching the Red River continue to rise, residents of Moorehead, Minn., are growing weary.
“People are just tired,” said Army Spc. Tony Baker, an infantryman with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 136th Infantry Regiment of the Minnesota Army National Guard. “They’ve been doing this for a week now; they’re tired, and they don’t know if they’re going to be able to hang on or not.”
They may be tired, but the volunteers continue to show up each day to work alongside the more than 400 Minnesota National Guard members, who have been called up to provide support for flood mitigation and support operations.
Like the volunteers, the Minnesota soldiers and airmen have been working in and around the Moorehead area providing support to local authorities since last weekend.
“Our primary mission is to support the local sheriffs in any way that we can,” said Army Lt. Col. Andy Engelhardt, commander of the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry Regiment, and the on-scene commander of Minnesota Guard’s flood operations.
Engelhardt said this mission is a great example of the dual role of the National Guard. “This battalion spent more than 16 months in Iraq two years ago, that was the federal mission,” he said. “Now, we’re back here doing a state mission helping our fellow citizens protect their homes and protect their property.”
And for many Guard members, that’s what it comes down to.
“Just know that the National Guard is going to be here until the end, whether it’s evacuation, whether it’s making sure we’re here just to help the police and sheriff’s department,” Baker said.
In Colorado, about 30 soldiers from the Army National Guard conducted ground-recovery efforts throughout the state after a blizzard dropped several feet of snow on the state yesterday.
Soldiers from the 147th Brigade Support Battalion patrolled routes along U.S. Highway 36 between Westminster and Boulder, Colo., to clear the highway and assist stranded motorists. So far, they have taken two motorists to a shelter set up at the Broomfield Community Center in Broomfield, Colo., and another was helped back onto the road.
Soldiers from Company B, 3rd Battalion, 157th Field Artillery Regiment of the 169th Fires Brigade conducted route clearance along Highway I-76 East to deliver blood to the Colorado Plains Medical Center in Fort Morgan, Colo.
The Colorado National Guard may extend operations and activate more of its forces to rapidly respond to other missions during the blizzard.
In North Dakota, Northcom is coordinating the Defense Department’s support to state and local agencies in support of disaster operations in response to flooding.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has requested the use of Grand Forks Air Force Base from Northcom as a national logistics staging area to support forward distribution of supplies and equipment to affected areas. The airfield also may be used.
North Dakota National Guard airmen and soldiers also slugged 20-pound sacks of sand alongside an army of Fargo residents and out-of-towners resolved to save the El Zagel Shrine and Masonic Temple from the rising Red River. Flooding has begun as snow from a recent blizzard begins to melt.
About 50 citizen-soldiers and -airmen worked into the night March 25 to increase an existing two-foot high sandbag levee another two feet. The decision to extend the levee was made after new projections from the National Weather Service said the Red River would likely crest higher than previously anticipated.
The story was much the same in South Dakota. An early spring blizzard dumped huge amounts of snow, which is now starting to melt.
After several days of clearing roads of snow, the South Dakota Army National Guard began preparing for possible assistance to flood operations being conducted in northeastern South Dakota and eastern North Dakota.
Five 5-ton dump trucks from the 842nd Engineer Company of Spearfish, S.D., will be moved to Fargo to assist the North Dakota National Guard in recovery operations along the Red River.
Personnel and equipment from several other units across the state also have been called upon to assist.
They will be staged for sandbagging operations in Columbia, S.D., along the Moccasin Creek near Aberdeen, to help protect power transformers. Support includes 18 soldiers, three Humvees, 11 heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks, and two 15-man inflatable boats with outboard motors.
(Compiled from U.S. Northern Command, National Guard Bureau, Colorado National Guard, North Dakota National Guard and South Dakota National Guard news releases.)