North Dakota Guardsmen Continue Statewide Flood Fight
By Army Spc. Chris Erickson
Special to American Forces Press Service
BISMARCK, N.D.,, Apr. 15, 2009 The number of National Guardsmen fighting rising water levels in North Dakota has more than doubled from last week.
North Dakota National Guard soldiers drop sandbags into the water overflowing Ward County Road 14 near Minot, N.D., April 14, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jonathan Haugen
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
More than 1,000 additional members of the North Dakota National Guard were activated April 13, adding to a force of about 900 who already were on active duty. This is about 500 fewer servicemembers than were on duty during the Red River's first crest in Fargo earlier this month.
The soldiers and airmen are helping to fight flooding throughout the state by placing sandbags, operating pumps, patrolling dikes and forming quick-reaction forces to respond to any levee that doesn't hold.
Residents have been grateful for the help. Army Sgt. 1st Class Freddie Griffin leads a team of about a dozen soldiers of the 134th Quartermaster Detachment in Pembina, where they have been patrolling the dike system for about a week.
"The people here have been great to us," Griffin said. "They are showing us their appreciation daily."
In Burlington, soldiers are operating a sandbag site and responding to area flood missions. A quick-response force already responded to homes affected by Des Lacs River flooding, and the team used 18,000 sandbags to build a dike around three separate homes. A team also is in place to serve the Minot area.
Guardsmen are patrolling dikes in many other parts of the state as well, including Drayton, Jamestown, Grand Forks, Lisbon and Wahpeton. They also are operating pumps at numerous locations, and have additional pumps on standby in areas that may be at risk again, such as Oxbow.
The Guard members have been improving roads in Grant County, and staging in Fargo and West Fargo to support the surrounding area. In the past week, Guardsmen from these locations have responded to overland flooding west of West Fargo at Willow Creek, and to provide support at the Absaraka dam. They have branched out to support Casselton, Grand Rapids, Hickson, Kindred and other locations in southeastern North Dakota.
Additional efforts are being focused in Lisbon and Valley City, where Guardsmen are monitoring dikes for leaks, operating pumps and generators, and providing traffic control points. The Guard brought additional heavy equipment to both cities, where it will be used if an evacuation becomes necessary.
In Valley City, the Guard continues to step up efforts, with about 500 Guardsmen currently on site.
Quick-response forces have responded to leaks and breaches, and a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was on the scene over the weekend to place about 20 1-ton sandbags to reinforce the dike near the 8th Avenue Bridge. The Guard established a secondary operations center in Valley City yesterday to help to coordinate flood fighting efforts there.
Army Spc. Dustin Kirschenmann of the 817th Engineer Company has been activated for flood duty since March 23. The 817th worked first in Fargo and then moved to Valley City over the weekend to patrol dikes. They are anticipating duty in Jamestown, as well. Kirschenmann helps to man the phones in the unit's tactical operations center, receiving dike condition reports.
On April 13, his 45th call was about a major leak at a pump site. Kirschenmann received the report and called the dike contractor to send dirt trucks out and rebuild the leaky spot.
"We're running so ragged we don't even think about it," Kirschenmann said. "We're just doing what we need to do." He added that the job "can be exciting, that's for sure."
"I would rather be bored," he said. "If we were bored, that would mean everything was going well."
(Army Spc. Chris Erickson serves with the North Dakota National Guard.)