In the aftermath of severe storms that have brought devastating tornadoes to areas of Missouri and Massachusetts and major flooding across the Midwest and other parts of the U.S., the number of Citizen-Soldiers who are answering the call for help has risen to about 5,000.
Guard members are performing domestic operations for flood relief support in the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Vermont and Wyoming.
Operations in these states include transportation and aviation support, levee patrols and security, assisting local and federal civilian emergency management agencies, evacuation support, search and rescue operations and sandbag operations.
In areas of Montana, Vermont and Wyoming, heavy rains mixed with the melting of larger-than-usual snow packs, has created a recipe for rising waters to occur and the evacuation of citizens in Washington County, Vermont.
North and South Dakota have about 3,000 Guard members who are still battling flood waters after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened oversaturated up-river dams earlier this week along the Missouri River.
Louisiana and Mississippi Guard members remain vigilant in their battle against the waters of the Mississippi River after severe storms swelled the river earlier this year. Operations continue in both states, where about 1,200 Guard members are currently operating.
Tornados have been another part of these heavy storms recently, and parts of Massachusetts and Missouri have both seen unbelievable damage.
About 450 Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen were on duty the morning after tornadoes tore across the Massachusetts area on June 1, and currently about 675 are on state active duty.
Officials have confirmed three deaths from the storms and said a fourth death, an elderly man who died of apparent cardiac arrest, may not have been tornado-related, said a Reuters report
Dozens were also injured and damage hit 19 Massachusetts communities and tens of thousands of residents were without power after the severe weather, according to civilian media reports.
The Missouri National Guard has about 275 Missouri Guard members performing various domestic operations in the Joplin area after a major twister leveled large portions of that city May 22, which resulted in the deaths of about 140 Citizens and devastated the local hospital.
Operations in both Missouri and Massachusetts include search and rescue, debris removal and cleanup, health and wellness checks, assisting local and federal emergency responders and damage assessment, said Guard officials.
Illinois Guard assists with South Dakota flooding
Illinois National Guard report
SPRINGFIELD, IL (6/3/11) – The Illinois National Guard sent one CH-47 Chinook helicopter with five crew members from Company B, 2nd Battalion 238th Aviation based in Peoria to help the South Dakota National Guard battle flood waters today.
“Our Soldiers and Airmen are always prepared and willing to help our neighbors,” said Army Maj. Gen. William L. Enyart, adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard. “Rising floodwater is something that we completely understand here in Illinois.”
Approximately 1,000 South Dakota National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have been helping to hold back the flood waters in the upper plains state for nearly a week.
The Illinois National Guard Aircraft and crew will sling load one-ton sandbags to secure the levy along the Missouri River near Sioux City, Iowa.
Soldiers from Company B, 2nd Battalion 238th Aviation were among the 550 Illinois National Guard Soldiers and Airmen who helped to battle the floods in southern Illinois in April and May of this year.
National Guard helps South Dakota city prep for flooding
By Army Spc. Manda Walters
South Dakota National Guard
PIERRE, S.D. (6/3/11) – Pierre city workers from the fire, water, and electrical departments gathered at Steamboat Memorial Park’s Well House 1 on Thursday morning to test a generator that will be activated should flood waters surpass a levee that South Dakota National Guard Soldiers are reinforcing just 35 feet away.
Rex Newling, a City of Pierre electrician, other city workers, and SDNG service members have spent many hours preparing the city, their friends and neighbors for the impending rising flood waters.
“I wish the high water would get here, then the anticipation would be over with,” said Newling, “but if normal power goes out, this generator will keep the well going.”
The well is one of several which provide water to the city’s potable water reservoirs.
Army Sgt. Michael H. Ordal, a heavy equipment operator with Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 147th Field Artillery said he is doing his best to keep the city and residents from experiencing a power outage.
Ordal and fellow service members are reinforcing the existing levee at Steamboat Park with the help of a crane, 4,000-pound sand bags, and guidance from the Army Corps of Engineers.
“The Army Corps of Engineers places fill and cut line markers to aid in the construction of levees,” said Ordal. These markers are used to designate how much dirt is needed to hold back the projected water levels, he said.
The levee, measuring more than 12 feet across, approximately 5 feet in height and stretching the length of the park, is expected to keep water away from area structures. A fill line marker near the levee and well house shows that its current height will be more than adequate if projected water levels are accurate, Ordal said.
The Army Corps of Engineers plans to release water from the Oahe Reservoir beginning at 8 a.m. today. If the levee is successful, there will be no need for the generator to pump water from Well House 1 to one of the city’s water reservoirs because the power will remain on.
North Dakota Guard helps neighborhoods with levee systems
North Dakota Guard report
BISMARCK, N.D. (6/3/11) – North Dakota National Guard members that are part of Civil Military Assistance Teams are hard at work building levee systems throughout the Bismarck-Mandan and Morton and Burleigh county areas.
Army 1st Lt. Matthew Voeller, with Battery A of the 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, is the officer-in-charge of a CMAT constructing a levee system north of Memorial Bridge on the Mandan side of the Missouri River.
The objective of the CMAT here is to keep back overland flooding by building a levee system that spans the entire neighborhood to the north. The south part of the levee links in with HESCO barriers placed by contractors that will buttress the bridge.
“The majority of residents already had some type of existing structure,” Voeller said. “However many were inadequate and needed strengthening.”
Those dikes that were not up to standard were re-enforced by Guard members with the guidance of the U.S. Army Engineer Corps and the civil engineers from Morton County.
Voeller said that while some people did a very good job of building their structures to protect their homes, his team needs to ensure that they meet the height and width requirements necessary to hold back the anticipated floodwaters, as well as keep the integrity of the system throughout the length of the area.
This will protect the residents’ homes and keep the water from coming overland and flowing further south. Voeller said this particular mission is close to completion and that the locals have been extremely supportive and expressed their gratitude for the help of the National Guard.
Mike Aubol, Morton County civil engineer, is working along with the National Guard and going through the whole development doing what he hopes will be a final inspection. Aubol will be giving recommendations to the crew as to what needs to be improved upon and taking measurements to ensure the levee is constructed to the correct level.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Bill Kilmer is a platoon sergeant in the North Dakota National Guard but says that he’s had many different jobs while working flood duty so far.
“I’ve done traffic control points, filled sandbags and now building this levee system,” Kilmer said.
Kilmer has served on flood duty previously in Valley City in 2009. He says quite a few of his crew has a decent amount of experience on flood duty.
“They’ve been doing a good job, and staying motivated,” Kilmer said.
CMATs have also had a lot of support from the residents that they are helping protect.
“The people have been great, very appreciative and bringing us water and snacks,” Kilmer said. “They’re very grateful to have the security from the structures that we’ve been putting up.”
North Dakota Air Guard patrols evacuated areas
North Dakota Guard report
MINOT, N.D. (6/3/11) – Members of the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 219th Security Forces Squadron began a new mission Thursday as they continued with flood operations here.
About 50 Guard members began providing presence patrols in the city’s nine evacuated zones.
The Guard members’ presence will help deter possible theft or vandalism while the homeowners are away. The Guard members also are tracking residents who did not evacuate after the mayor issued the order to do so.
“A lot of people are excited we’re here,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandan Ressler, a member of the 219th SFS. “There’s a sigh of relief that the Guard is here to help with things.”
Ressler is serving his third consecutive year on flood duty. Today, he was watching for suspicious personnel in Minot’s evacuated areas and recording license plate numbers and locations to report to the authorities.
“It’s a definite hometown mission,” said the Minot native. “It feels really good to help out my home. Our main purpose here is to prevent looting. We’re trying to protect the people who have followed orders and left.”
As they checked in with folks, they visited with Mike Neva, a homeowner in one of the evacuated areas who had returned home for some last-minute waterproofing. He said with the work the North Dakota National Guard has done, he feels 95 percent confident that his home will be saved. He won’t, however, build a house with an 8-foot-deep basement again, he says.
“I’m glad you guys are doing this,” Neva said. “I feel secure with them being here. They’re here for our protection and people sometimes don’t give them the credit they’re due.”
Simply being visible in the community goes a long way toward preventing looting, said Air Force Master Sgt. Nathan Anderson, with the 219th SFS.
“I think it’s good that we’re out here deterring events,” he said. “The public likes to see us out here and know that we’re around. For the situation they’re in, the public seems pretty upbeat. They’re just doing what they have to do.”
All together, about 600 North Dakota National Guardsmen are serving on flood duty in the Minot area, with nearly 1,400 more serving in Bismarck and Mandan, N.D.
Residents, Soldiers, Airmen come together to provide Missouri River flood relief
By Air Force Capt. Michael Frye
114th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
PIERRE, S.D. (6/3/11) – Deloren Krieger isn’t taking any chances. By 7 a.m. Tuesday, he was already picking up more sandbags. As the waters began to encroach on the local golf course near his home, this Pierre resident continued to build the berm that surrounds his residence.
Krieger said although there is some distance that separates his home from the river, he feels that with the golf course so close, his home may be in danger.
“I don’t have that big of a house,” said Krieger. “But even a 1,000-square-foot house with a 5-foot berm surrounding it takes a lot of sandbags.”
Sandbagging efforts continue as many volunteers have answered the call for protecting homes like Krieger’s, even though their own homes aren’t in harm’s way.
Local residents like Donna Brown-Glow and her husband share their time between Wood and Fort Pierre. Although Brown-Glow’s homes aren’t in danger, she feels it’s important to help those in need.
“South Dakota is a great state,” said Brown-Glow. “We are all neighbors throughout South Dakota, and I want to help my neighbors out.”
She also said she is grateful for the Airmen and Soldiers who are in the communities helping with the sandbagging efforts in this historic flooding event.
“I’m an Army brat and have a great respect for the military,” Brown-Glow added. “I am very pleased to see them here. They are who we depend on.”
Lindsey Rogers, a Fort Pierre resident, shared Brown-Glow’s same sentiment. She said the Fort Pierre Pool, where she has been the manager the past two years, has already been closed indefinitely. Since her summer plans changed, she has taken that turn of events to help support the Soldiers and Airmen who have been called to support the flood fighting efforts along the Missouri River.
Rogers has been spending her time at the Expo Center sandbagging with volunteers and South Dakota National Guard members.
“We are spending a lot of our time laughing and telling funny stories to keep our minds off sand,” said Rogers with a smile.
Rogers has also brought her management skills to the fight. As food donations come in from the community, she’s making sure that food reaches the Guard members and volunteers who have come out to work. She said her personal goal is to aid the Soldiers and Airmen as much as possible, as without their support, helping the community would be more difficult.
“It’s unbelievable,” adds Rogers. “You hear of these Guardsmen going overseas and supporting our country, but when small communities like Pierre and Fort Pierre are in trouble, being able to see these guys come in and give up their summers to help us like this, you can’t be thankful enough that they are here.”
Pierre resident Mark Barnett has felt the need to step up to the sandbagging challenge, as well. His home isn’t in the flood zone, but he has picked up loads of sandbags throughout the past five days.
When asked where the sandbags were going while picking up his third load on Wednesday, he simply answered, “Friends.”
Barnett echoed the common theme amongst Pierre and Fort Pierre residents, “We’re glad to see the National Guard here. We need their help.”