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North Dakota Guard Assists Tornado-hit Town

By Army Sgt. Ann Knudson
Special to American Forces Press Service

DICKINSON, N.D., July 13, 2009 – Almost 100 North Dakota Army National Guardsmen were called to duty last week to respond after a tornado struck this town south of the Heart River.

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Army Spc. Brandon Dees checks a driver's license to verify that the driver lives in the tornado-damaged area of Dickinson, N.D., before letting him past a traffic control point July 10, 2009. Courtesy photo

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The July 8 tornado tore up more than 100 buildings and ripped down trees. Local officials reported there were no casualties and only minor injuries.

"Through the whole week they talked about how severe it would be. People were gearing up," said Army Spc. Kory Twardoski, from the 818th Engineer Company, Williston.

Guardsmen from the 816th Engineer Company responded immediately to the storm's damage with shelter, traffic control and patrols.

For two days, soldiers staffed 18 traffic control points in two shifts. They allowed only repair crews, residents and helpers into the area.

"The homeowners were very thankful, and the police department was just ecstatic to have the extra help," said Army Capt. Ann Mutzenberger, 816th commander.

Traffic was heavy on Main South the day after the tornado. "Everybody in town wanted to go down and check it out or help buddies or families," said Army Staff Sgt. Scott Obrigewitch, section sergeant for the 816th’s 1st Platoon Wheeled Section.

By July 10, traffic was down considerably. "Traffic's not even 5 percent of what it was [July 9]," said Army Sgt. Jason Badinger, who staffed a traffic control point.

The roving patrols monitoring the devastated area made an immediate difference. "It only took about an hour to take effect," Mutzenberger said.

Most of the soldiers were from the 816th, the others volunteered from various units throughout the state.

"I'm extremely proud of our soldiers," Mutzenberger said. "They've got families, they've got jobs, but every time we call, they're here. The soldiers are very proud to be able to assist their own town, and the community support has been awesome."

(Army Sgt. Ann Knudson serves with the North Dakota National Guard.)

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North Dakota National Guard

Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Spc. Brandan Aman and Army Spc. Dominic Kessel allow a repair truck to roll through their traffic control point in the tornado-damaged area of Dickinson, N.D., July 10, 2009. Both are Dickinson residents and members of the North Dakota National Guard’s 816th Engineer Company. Courtesy photo  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Spc. Brandon Dees and Army Spc. Brooklyn Gilje control traffic in the wake of a tornado that hit Dickinson, N.D., July 8, 2009. Both are members of the North Dakota National Guard’s 816th Engineer Company. Courtesy photo   
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