The assistance provided by the Minnesota National Guard during the 2011 flood fight in Minot has been an invaluable asset to the North Dakota National Guard, who has been engaged in flood response operations in the central region of the state for almost 50 days. Minnesota has deployed 120 soldiers to assist in the Minot area in the first of two rotations.
The Minnesota Guard became engaged in the flood fight through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. They are assisting with the removal of sandbags and levees, operating traffic control points and conducting security patrols in evacuated areas.
“The Minn. Guard soldiers have displayed an excellent attitude while assisting Minot during this disaster”, said Command Sgt. Maj. Norman Deschene, of the Devil Lake based 136th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. “They are tackling their missions with a commitment to do the right thing, being helpful to citizens and take care of Minot.”
Lt. Nathan Sokolowski, with the Litchfield, Minn., based 849th Mobility Augmentation Company, is the officer in charge of the unit’s engineering operations in Minot.
“Instead of building up defenses against the flood waters, we will begin tearing down, thus helping the community return to normal,” said Sokolowski. “As the flood waters recede, our primary mission will be debris removal.
Sokolowski said that they had cleared out 116 one-ton sandbags in one day as a part of the cleanup mission. Since the Black Hawk helicopters left Minot, there was no reason to keep the large sandbags ready for aerial placement. After disassembling the sandbags, the sand was returned to the city’s public works division.
In spite of minor state-to-state differences, Sokolowski found the commonality in the Army bond enabled his unit to work smoothly with the North Dakota Guard.
“We felt like we were North Dakotans ourselves,” said Sokolowski. “I’d like to personally thank the North Dakota engineers and the Guard’s Task Force-Flood for their great support.”
Sgt. First Class Chris Swoboda, a soldier with the Minnesota National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery Regiment, serves as the non commissioned officer in charge of that unit’s missions in Minot and agrees with Sokolowski.
“Communication with the North Dakota Guard has been outstanding,” Swoboda said. “It seems like we’ve been working together for years.”
The initial group of Minnesota soldiers is scheduled to be in Minot for two weeks, making it easier for civilian employers and family back home. This first group of soldiers will be replaced by a follow-on contingent in mid-July.
“This is my fifth tour of state active duty this year,” said Slobodan. “The flooding here is one of the worst disasters I’ve seen but I’m glad I could come to North Dakota and help.”
Slobodan also commented on the accommodations at the Minot High School’s Magic City Campus.
“This is one of the nicest working and sleeping facilities I’ve stayed on any active duty,” said Slobodan. “We’ve received great community support during this duty.”
He cited the small things that really make a difference making the Minnesotans feel welcome. For example, community members constantly restock the common areas near their sleeping quarters with snacks and drinks for the Minnesota Guard soldiers to make their stay as comfortable as possible as they assist Minot in its flood fight.
Story by: Spc. Cassie Simonton
116th Public Affairs Detachment