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Virginia Guard Assists With Flood Cleanup in West Virginia

By Army Maj. Cotton Puryear
Special to American Forces Press Service

CEDAR BLUFF, Va., May 19, 2009 – About 30 soldiers from the Virginia National Guard’s 1033rd Engineer Company left their home armory here yesterday for West Virginia, where they are scheduled to assist with the state’s flood recovery operations.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Pvt. Justin Bean adds water to the coolant system of a 5-ton dump truck May 17, 2009, in preparation for a convoy movement to West Virginia. The Virginia National Guard's 1033rd Engineer Company departed the next day to assist with debris removal and flood recovery in West Virginia. U.S. Army photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear

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

They will assist with debris removal and other cleanup operations after floods ravaged the area on May 8, and they are scheduled to be on duty for up to 30 days.

“We are very excited about this mission,” Army 1st Lt. Adam Provost, the engineer company’s commander, said. “This is the mission most of us signed up for, and that’s to help our neighbors and local communities. Fighting wars overseas is an important part of our job, but supporting our communities is why we joined the Guard.”

The soldiers are equipped with four 2.5-cubic-yard front-end loaders hauled by tractor trailers, eight 5-ton dump trucks and nine chain saw kits. The soldiers will provide the necessary personnel support to operate and maintain the equipment.

“This is one of the more fulfilling missions we have in the Virginia National Guard, but also one of the most devastating when you see where your neighbors have lost everything,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Claude Dye, who served on flood recovery duty in West Virginia in 2001 and saw the impact of severe flooding firsthand.

Dye said about 70 percent of the soldiers on the mission returned home from an overseas deployment about five months ago, and that he hopes their experience and “mission first” mind set will set the example for younger soldiers in the unit.

The goal for the mission is to “hit it hard, get it done, and everyone comes home with 10 fingers and 10 toes,” Dye said.

The request for assistance came through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a congressionally ratified organization that provides form and structure to interstate mutual aid.

Through EMAC, a state can request and receive assistance from other member states quickly and efficiently. Once the governor approves a request for assistance, the Virginia Guard determines what unit, personnel and equipment can best support the request.

“We welcome the chance to assist our neighbors in West Virginia during this time of need,” said Army Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman Jr., Virginia’s adjutant general. “It is important that we all know that in a crisis where the health and welfare of citizens are at risk, no one stands alone. I am glad we can provide assistance, and I know if the tables were turned, we could count on assistance from other states here in Virginia.”

(Army Maj. Cotton Puryear serves with the Virginia National Guard.)

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