JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri National Guard transitioned its state emergency duty as the floodwaters of the Mississippi and Meramec rivers receded and it began recovery efforts in the St. Louis region affected by record-breaking flooding.
More than 600 Guard members, who were activated by Gov. Jay Nixon on Dec. 29, 2015, to respond to the historic flooding, have been released from duty and returned to their homes, said Maj. Gen. Steve Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard.
“We appreciate working closely with our local and state partners who have done an outstanding job responding to the needs of the communities affected by the flooding,” Danner said. “As we move into the next phase of the mission, our focus will be to coordinate the debris removal process and help residents get back to normal as quickly as possible.”
Danner said the National Guard has been given the mission to supervise and coordinate the debris removal process from private and public property in the affected area of eastern Missouri. The recovery task force of approximately 25 Guard members will be led by Lt. Col. Grace Link.
“The National Guard has experience in leading the debris removal efforts after the tornado in Joplin in 2011,” added Danner. “Lt. Col Link has been working closely with our federal partners to get the debris removal process started. She had liaison officers begin meeting with local municipalities (Thursday) to ensure the recovery process goes smoothly.”
Local leaders praised the efforts of the Guard members who responded to emergency missions throughout the past week, which included security patrols, sand bagging operations, traffic control points, notification checkpoints, and water purification and delivery, said Lt. Col. Paul Kirchhoff, the task force commander.
"Our Soldiers and Airmen have completed their missions with the professionalism and dedication the people of Missouri have come to expect from their National Guard,” Kirchhoff said. “I’m proud to be part of an organization that answers the call of our neighbors and helps those in need no matter the time or day. It has been an honor to lead this group of outstanding volunteer Soldiers and Airmen as we assisted the local officials during this response.”
Serving the local community is not the only thing that motivates Guardsmen, said Pfc. Cory Bacon of the 1140th Forward Support Company, 1140th Engineer Battalion in Cape Girardeau, whose recent mission was to secure a levee near East Prairie.
“Not just being there for the community, but being there to show my kids there’s a lot of opportunities for them out there is important,” said Bacon. “It makes a big difference for me because I’m being a role model for them.”
The National Guard will remain on duty until released by Gov. Nixon.