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Guardsmen in Three States Battle Floods

By Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, March 31, 2010 – More than 1,500 National Guard members in three Northeast states are waging a war against rising flood waters after several days of rain combined with melting snow.

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Pfc. Matthew J. Ohman and Pvt. Carey A. Clarke, both of the 272nd Chemical Company of the Massachusetts Army National Guard, work together filling sandbags in Lexington, Mass., March 29, 2010. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. James C. Lally

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Massachusetts has called up more than 900 soldiers, while Rhode Island and Connecticut have more than 500 and 150 on duty, respectively.

U.S. Northern Command also activated two coordinating units today in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s northeast regional office to assist in the flood response, officials there said.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick has authorized the mobilization of 1,000 soldiers and airman to support the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Soldiers have filled and transported about 9,000 sandbags from the state highway department in Lexington, Mass., to points of distribution in Lexington, Tewksbury, Bridgewater and Millbury.

Additional soldiers and airmen called for state active duty not only will continue to fill and transport sandbags to affected areas, but also will conduct emergency evacuation operations and presence patrols and provide security to isolated areas, according to a news release from the state.

Twenty-one National Guard trucks are headed to Fall River, Mass., to assist with evacuations in the Watuppa Pond area, and 6,000 sandbags are being delivered and emplaced in Middleboro, Blackstone and Concord.

Guard officials said the Massachusetts Guard is pre-positioned at strategic locations throughout the state, capable of providing communication support, transportation support, medical support, predictive flood modeling and maintenance sustainment support.

“The men and women of the Massachusetts National Guard are eager to assist the citizens of the commonwealth,” said Army Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Carter, Massachusetts adjutant general. The commonwealth can rely on our diverse capabilities, our strategically located units, and our quick response during times of need.”

Army 2nd Lt. Danielle Golden, a platoon leader with the 125th Quartermaster Company, supervised soldiers who were filling sandbags in Lexington. Golden, who normally works as a state corrections officer, said this is the first state mission in which she has participated since joining the Guard.

“Any soldier that gets to be a part of a mission like this at least once is lucky,” she said.

Army Staff Sgt. Ross E. Bandy of the 272nd Chemical Company said he’s glad to help, crediting a friend’s service with inspiring him to join the Guard. “I am a Navy veteran, and I have a friend in the Guard who helped out during the 2008 ice storm,” he said. “After seeing him, I thought I’d join and help some people out.”

The 79th Troop Command in Rehoboth, Mass., coordinated the movement of filled sandbags from Lexington to areas designated by MEMA. The initial tasks MEMA assigned to the National Guard have been completed, Guard officials said.

Just to the south, Rhode Island soldiers have been tasked with assisting various state and local authorities with traffic control, evacuations and transportation. The Rhode Island Guard continues to work in close coordination with the Rhode Island EMA on where and when to position Guard personnel and equipment.

All guard missions will be based on input from RIEMA, which is closely monitoring the situation with all state and local agencies, according to a news release from the state.

“We are an integrated emergency management agency; we’re maintaining situational awareness. We are well linked with FEMA and [the Department of Homeland Security],” said Rhode Island’s adjutant general, Army Maj. Gen. Robert T. Bray, at a news conference yesterday. “Our main focus is safety and infrastructure, specifically to keep the main thoroughfares open.”

He added that the Guard activation would last for as long as necessary. “We are prepared to put personnel and equipment where they will be best utilized,” he said.

In Connecticut, soldiers are conducting high-water rescues and sandbagging operations, Guard officials said.

(Army Staff Sgt. James C. Lally of the Massachusetts National Guard contributed to this report.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageU.S. Sen. Scott Brown is briefed by members of the 272nd Chemical Company of the Massachusetts National Guard on sandbag production operations in Lexington, Mass., March 30, 2010. Brown also serves in the Massachusetts National Guard. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jerome Bishop  
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