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NEWS | June 7, 2011

SPECIAL: South Dakota National Guard fights floods

Almost 1,300 Guard members remain on duty in South Dakota

By Officer Candidate Chad Carlson
South Dakota National Guard

RAPID CITY, S.D. - About 1,280 Soldiers and Airmen from the South Dakota National Guard continue to perform various flood support duties throughout the state.

South Dakota is experiencing record flows of water on the Missouri River as a result of record snowfall in Montana that is beginning to melt and heavy rainfall in eastern Wyoming, Montana and the western Dakotas.

As snow melts and rain water flows into streams and rivers in South Dakota, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is releasing record flows of water at all the dams on the Missouri River to accommodate water flowing into the upper Missouri River reservoir basin.

These record releases on the Missouri River are expected to cause major flooding issues along the river.

On May 27, the initial South Dakota National Guard flood response was directed to the cities of Pierre and Ft. Pierre.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, the SDNG added forces to assist in mitigating the emerging threats to Vermillion, Yankton and Dakota Dunes in Southeast South Dakota.

“We continue to monitor all of the levees 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, and provide quick reaction forces who are available to respond to any problems with the levees or other emergent issues in both the Pierre and Fort Pierre areas,” said Army Maj. Gen. Timothy Reisch.

“Our assistance with sandbagging in Pierre and Fort Pierre hasn’t been needed for the last two days and as a result, we are preparing to reduce the numbers of Soldiers and Airmen in Pierre.”

Sandbagging operations in the Dakota Dunes area remains a priority for the National Guard as the need for the manpower has not been reduced as it has in the capital city area.

“We continue to devote large numbers of Soldiers and Airmen to sandbagging in the southeast corner of the state,” Reisch said.

“We have begun 24-hour surveillance of the completed levees and have stood up a quick reaction force in that area as well. I continue to be greatly impressed by the performance of our Soldiers and Airmen.

“I couldn’t prouder of the South Dakota National Guard.”

Task Force 147 is comprised of 256 Soldiers and Airmen from the South Dakota National Guard. This task force is responsible for berm patrol, security, traffic control, and quick reaction forces along the levees. Task Force 147 is working in and around the Pierre and Fort Pierre areas.

“Things are going well; it’s business as usual here in the Pierre and Fort Pierre areas,” said Maj. Martin Yost, Task Force 147th operations officer. “We continue to focus on quick reaction force missions and assisting the cities.”

Task Force 153 currently has 685 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen performing sandbagging operations, levee patrols, security, traffic control, and is planning for quick reaction along the levees in the Yankton and Dakota Dunes areas.

“Levee patrol operations are underway and going well,” said Lt. Col. Joe Eining, Task Force 153rd commander.

“The Soldiers and Airmen conducting that mission did a lot of great rehearsals and are very prepared. Yesterday, they conducted a swift water rescue exercise that went very well. The response time by emergency personnel both on the ground and in the water was very short, just under three-and-a-half minutes.

“Our Soldiers and Airmen know the task at hand; they know what they’re fighting for and continue to do a tremendous job in all areas we’re involved in.”

The National Guard remains vigilant by working around the clock in this historic flooding event, and continues to work side by side with local, state and federal agencies to help South Dakotans in their time of need.

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147th Forward Support Company maintains vehicles, equipment in support of flood efforts

By Air Force Master Sgt. Christopher Stewart
114th Fighter Wing


PIERRE, S.D. - The South Dakota Army National Guard’s 147th Forward Support Company, headquartered in Mitchell, acquires, distributes and maintains the fleet of 193 pieces of equipment needed to fight the Missouri River flood.

It includes more than 20 different types that range from dump trucks to bulldozers, compacters, wreckers, fueling vehicles, forklifts, road-bladers, fleet of HUMVEES, buses, ATVs and generators. These are needed to build, secure and maintain the levees.

The 147th FSC, with its detachments located in Sioux Falls and Webster, were activated for the purpose of monitoring and maintaining equipment. Vehicles from around the state are acquired and signed for by the 147th. The vehicles are then issued out as needed and the vehicle status is tracked at all times within the operations center by staff members.

Army Master Sgt. Jeff Butler, 1/147th Field Artillery, from Sioux Falls, is in charge of tracking every piece of equipment, from where it is located to its current status. He said the equipment comes from all over the state, and he fills out a hand receipt for every vehicle as he acquires them from their home units.

Every vehicle has been put to the test during the 24 hour flood operations, and a lot of maintenance is required to keep up with the demand of supporting the historic Missouri River flooding efforts. Four to five vehicles per day are driven or emplaced into the maintenance shops of the 147th. These vehicles range from the large M1120 HEMTTs to smaller forklifts and HUMVEES.

The most common problem seen with vehicles rolling in is body damage caused by heavy use and rough working conditions. This type of damage requires minor body work, but the mechanics are quick to make repairs and overcome minor challenges. Their work is important to getting the vehicles back in working order, allowing continual support for the flooding efforts.

 “A lot of what they have worked on is equipment they are not familiar with,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael W. Becker, of Groton, and Platoon Sergeant for Detachment 2, 147th FSC. “This equipment is outside their normal realm of jobs, and they have done an outstanding job handling it.”

The 147th FSC deals with a lot with vehicles you would see in forward combat areas. The requirements of fighting the flood have necessitated a wider range of vehicles than the 147th deals with day to day.

Parts can also be an issue in a large scale effort such as this. As vehicles are moved around the state to support the flooding efforts, they do not always carry all of the necessary spare parts with them. The 147th has done an amazing job identifying the needed parts quickly. After the parts are identified, they are quickly shipped to Pierre where the vehicle is repaired and placed back in working order.

One reason the 147th FSC handles problems with such efficiency is their experience. The five most experienced members of the team have a combined total of more than 150 years of experience repairing vehicles and equipment for the South Dakota National Guard.

This experience helps the team deal with new and different equipment, as well as the parts issues they are encountering. The maintenance support provided to the flooding operations has been vital to the keeping the rising Missouri River at bay.

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Levee patrol underway for 211th Engineers, 114th Fighter Wing at Dakota Dunes

By Army Sgt. Charlie Jacobson
129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment


DAKOTA DUNES, S.D. - A team of South Dakota National Guard members have transitioned from levee construction operations at Dakota Dunes to patrolling the fortress they helped construct.

Soldiers from the 211th Engineer Company based out of Madison, and Airmen from 114th Fighter Wing of Sioux Falls, are providing 24-hour foot patrols to carefully monitor the south levee of the Dakota Dunes levee system for any problematic areas.

“We are going to have to be extra vigilant up there and completely aware of our surroundings as conditions of the levee continue to change,” said Army 1st Lt. Ariel Keating, the day shift officer in charge of levee patrol operations.

Teams of two are patrolling 200 meter sections of the 3.8 mile stretch of levee for cracks, severe erosion and any areas where water finds its way inside the perimeter of the levee, Keating said.

“Like the rest of the operations out here, safety is of the highest concern for the levee patrol teams,” Keating said. “It is critical we follow every safety precaution necessary to ensure safety for our Airmen and Soldiers.”

Every service member on patrol is equipped with a personal floatation device, reflective vest and a whistle for safety purposes. Each two person team has a radio for communications and a log-book to document levee conditions throughout the day.

The Army Corp of Engineers released water at 140,000 cubic feet per second from Gavins Point Dam on June 8. Release levels will continue to increase through June 14, when water will be released at 150,000 cfs.

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185th Air Base serves as air operations center for flood relief

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Rich Murphy
185th Air Refueling Wing


SIOUX CITY, Iowa - As river levels along the Missouri River continue to increase, a multi-state joint forces team of National Guard members are assisting in the flood relief efforts in the Siouxland area.

Col. Bud Day Field, home of the 185th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) in Sioux City, Iowa, is currently serving as the center for much of the air support operations.

Over 400 National Guard members have been activated to provide support to many of the communities along the Missouri who are in danger of flooding. Besides filling and throwing sandbags, many of the Guard members have been tasked to provide security across the levees.
Currently four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the Minnesota and Iowa National Guard and a CH-47 Chinook from the Illinois Army National Guard are providing support by delivering sandbags to many of the critical areas along the river.

The aerial units are also working along with the Swift Water Rescue Team to prepare for any emergency evacuation missions that may occur as a result of the flooding. Most of the aircraft are currently equipped with rescue hoists in case an emergency evacuation is needed.

Army Chief Warrant Officer Christian Frank, South Dakota's State Aviation Safety Officer for the Army, said, "Over the last week, we have witnessed some amazing engineering. The coordination between all of the Guard units has been fantastic. This is really a success story."

He added, "Our guys have experience in the past with hurricanes and flooding. The level of support and interaction we are experiencing now should serve as a model for how these operations should be run."

With several KC-135s deployed around the world, the airfield at the 185th ARW has just enough space on the flight line to support the air operations. Air Force Tech Sgt. Dave Henson and Staff Sgt. Kiel Hamann have been tasked to prepare the airfield for the unique needs of the helicopters.

Air Force Tech Sgt. Henson, a previous helicopter crew chief in both the Air Force and the Army and now a crew chief for the KC-135 at the 185th ARW, said that setting up the airfield was initially a difficult task.

"First, we had to designate an area just for the helicopters. Then we had to setup hover areas and refueling areas. We also had to set up a system to get in the necessary parts for maintenance and provide support for the maintainers here. We were working about 16 to 18 hour days getting set up."

The 185th ARW and the various helicopter units are currently engaging in a hot refueling procedure. During this procedure, the helicopters land and refuel without shutting the engine down, which saves both time and fuel during the ongoing missions.

Frank said, "The people here at the 185th have been great. We have received fantastic support from everyone on this base. The way we are working together makes the things we are able to do possible."

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South Dakota National Guard fights floods

By Air Force Capt. Michael Frye
114th Fighter Wing


RAPID CITY, S.D. - About 1,300 Soldiers and Airmen from the South Dakota National Guard are performing various flood support duties throughout the state.

South Dakota is experiencing record flows of water on the Missouri River.

This is a direct result of record snowfall in Montana that is beginning to melt and heavy rainfall in eastern Wyoming, Montana and the western Dakotas.

This snow melt and rain water is flowing into streams and rivers that flow into South Dakota. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is releasing record flows of water at all the dams on the Missouri River to make room for the water that is flowing into the upper Missouri River reservoir basin.

These record releases on the Missouri River are expected to cause major flooding issues along the river.

On May 27, the initial South Dakota National Guard flood response was directed to the cities of Pierre and Ft. Pierre.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, the SDNG added forces to assist in mitigating the emerging threats to Vermillion, Yankton and Dakota Dunes in Southeast South Dakota.

“The levees are doing their job,” said Army Maj. Gen. Timothy Reisch, the adjutant general for the South Dakota National Guard.

“The surveillance of levees and the response along the dry side of the levees has been a cooperative effort between the South Dakota National Guard and civilian authorities.”

“With the increased releases from the Oahe Dam, the water levels in Pierre and Fort Pierre are rising. Our levee patrol and quick reaction force elements are actively providing levee patrols and a quick reaction force to address any storm drain backflow issues as quickly as possible.

“An additional 150 Soldiers and Airmen have been activated to the Dakota Dunes area. This has been a significant activation of the South Dakota National Guard and I am very pleased with how the Soldiers and Airmen have performed the mission.”

Task Force 147 is comprised of more than 580 Soldiers and Airmen from the South Dakota National Guard. This task force is responsible for berm patrol, security, traffic control, quick reaction forces along the levees and continue sandbagging efforts. Task Force 147 is working in and around the Pierre and Fort Pierre areas.

Task Force 153 currently has more than 540 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen performing sandbagging operations, levee patrols, security, traffic control, and quick reaction along the levees in the Yankton and Dakota Dunes areas.

The National Guard remains vigilant by working around the clock in this historic flooding event, and continues to work side-by-side with local, state and federal agencies to help South Dakotans in their time of need.

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Cooperation guides transition from levee construction to oversight

By Army Spc. Manda Walters
129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment


FORT PIERRE, S.D. - The South Dakota National Guard is transitioning its flood response focus to cooperative oversight with civilian authorities while private contractors finished up levee construction on the Fort Pierre Missouri riverbank on Sunday.
 
Some of the SDNG Soldiers and Airmen are being reassigned to tasks that better serve this shifting flood remediation effort. 

Now tasked to the South Dakota Highway Patrol, the efficient movement of trucks that haul dirt to sandbagging sites in the community had been a primary task of South Dakota Air National Guard’s114th Fighter Wing.

“The logistics of efficiently moving over 150 trucks, from fill sites on the northeast side of Fort Pierre to sandbagging sites around the communities – some transporting more than 3,000 loads of dirt daily – was a huge task”, said Nancy Ronnings, co-owner of Morris, Inc. in Fort Pierre. 

“The South Dakota National Guard made it happen so the sandbagging could beat the rising water levels.”

Most of the Airmen serving on state active duty in the Pierre communities now walk the levees to identify breeches of integrity in the barrier.

In addition to maintaining levee security, the South Dakota Army National Guard’s 147th Field Artillery personnel and equipment are in place to provide quick reaction forces for levee reinforcement, if needed.

“When our Quick Reaction Forces are called upon, we will have civilian authorities providing direction on how to repair the levees,” said Army Maj. Martin Yost, the SDNG’s Task Force 147 Operations Officer. “The National Guard is here to provide the manpower and equipment to perform those repairs throughout the Pierre and Fort Pierre communities.

Civilian contractors have crews working late into the night to complete their task of levee completion as the Missouri River continues to rise from record-level releases from the Oahe Dam in Pierre.

In spite of the transition to levee security and quick response force preparedness, sandbagging efforts continue as the water release from the Oahe Dam reaches 150 thousand cubic feet per second today.

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114th Fighter Wing mission evolving

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Quinton Young
114th Fighter Wing


DAKOTA DUNES, S.D. - With another day of sandbagging coming to a close at Dakota Dunes, the 114th Fighter Wing received some welcome news on Sunday:  The 114th will now be performing the duty of levee patrol for the Dakota Dunes area.

“With the release of record levels of water out of the Oahe and Gavins Point Dams, the water has begun to reach levees and berms along the Dakota Dunes shores on the Missouri River.  This means the levees and berms need to be monitored 24/7,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Brandon Eskam of the 114th Fighter Wing, Sioux Falls. 

The 114th will split into two teams (approximately 80 people per team), one for the day shift and one for the night shift. The Airmen and a contingent of Soldiers from the Army National Guard will patrol the 3.8 mile stretch of levees and berms along the Dakota Dunes shore.

Eskam briefed 114th Fighter Wing personnel in a classroom at the USD campus in Vermillion about their transitioning role in the flood fight along the Missouri River. Eskam said, “We need to take care of one another and use the wingman concept.”

When asked what the most important thing to remember while patrolling the levee, Malvern, Iowa resident, Paul Boyd, from the Army Corp of Engineer’s Omaha District said, “These Airmen and Soldiers are the first set of eyes and the role they will play is vital.”

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147th Field Artillery Quick Response Force gets feet wet

By Army Spc. Manda Walters
129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment


FORT PIERRE, S.D. - The South Dakota Army National Guard’s Alpha Battery, 1stt Battalion, 147th Field Artillery Quick Response Force responded within minutes to their first call regarding water backing up through  manholes and grates yesterday on Marian Street in Fort Pierre.

“The mission of the QRF is to respond to integrity issues with the levees or critical infrastructure in a timely fashion,” said Army Capt. Keith Voss, the task force 147th battle captain at the Emergency Operation Center in Pierre. “QRF always sits at the ready at the Stanley County High School staging area in Fort Pierre.

“The QRF command is prompted to engage when National Guard Soldiers and Airmen or city workers and residents observe and recognize an integrity break. It is a coordinated effort with the city and the Army Corps of Engineers to determine the best utilization of available resources when that happens.

“The reported location was investigated by a 147th QRF team leader, and it was found there were four places where the water was backing up through manholes and grates.”

This was the first call response for the Fort Pierre or Alpha Battery, 147th QRF.

“The QRF was mobilized and we sprang into action at the site,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason Zok, Fort Pierre QRF noncommissioned officer in charge.

The Soldiers put down plastic then secured it with sandbags in a square around the second of four openings. Then a relay system quickly moved sandbags off a Load Handling System onto the developing levee, until the perimeter was built up to a height of approximately four feet.

“We will continue to monitor these sites as the Army Corps of Engineers continues to open up the flow of water from Oahe Dam,” said Voss. “So far, every four hours the QRF command has been alerted to water issues at critical points throughout the Pierre and Fort Pierre communities.” 

The QRF will remain at the ready to address levee breeches and control flooding.

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Morale remains high during National Guard flood activation

By Air Force Master Sgt. Christopher Stewart
114th Fighter Wing


PIERRE, S.D. - Kids from the Children’s Castle and East Side Day Care in Pierre took a field trip June 3 to deliver treat bags to the Soldiers of the South Dakota National Guard assigned to filling sandbags at the Georgia Morse Middle School.

“I think it is really important, especially for younger children, to learn to help others and we talked about what everybody is doing and how Soldiers are coming from all over to help,” said Lisa Blake, director of Children’s Castle and East Side Day Care.

“We need to do that random act of kindness to help others,” said Blake.  By providing the treat bags to the Soldiers, Blake said it made the children very excited.

“The community has played a large part in maintaining high morale among South Dakota National Guard Soldiers and Airmen during a state activation to assist with flood relief,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Jason Stevens from the 114th Fighter Wing in Sioux Falls.

 “The community is really doing a great job supporting us,” said Stevens. “There is a never-ending supply of food, and having an opportunity to work beside the residents really has a positive impact in the lives of our Guardsmen.”

“One thing that helps with morale is the camaraderie of the units,” said Army Command Sgt. Maj. George Arends with Task Force 147, located in Pierre. “Being in the service, you get this bond, and we become like family, joking and laughing once in a while.”

Airmen are happy to see and hear about the end results of their work in the community. The fact that community members take the extra time to bring homemade baked goods to show their appreciation for the work of the National Guard and volunteers has been greatly appreciated.

 “I think that one thing that the Airmen have learned is that the resiliency and the pouring out of support with the hugs, food and the thanks has been just overwhelming,” said Air Force Capt. Joe Hardin, Officer in Charge of the security and sandbagging efforts of the 114th Fighter Wing detached to Pierre.

“The work is hard and long, but the appreciation from the citizens has been great. The people who are truly in need have thanked us tenfold and we are thrilled to be here to help the people of South Dakota.”

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Sandbagging operations ensuring demand is met

By Army Sgt. Charlie Jacobson
129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

DAKOTA DUNES, S.D. - South Dakota National Guard members, local contractors, volunteers from the community, and South Dakota Department of Correction inmates continued to mass produce sandbags throughout the region June 3.

As the community continues the all-out fight against threatening Missouri River water levels, sandbagging crews at more than 20 sites are producing nearly 500,000 sandbags per day, said Colby Crawford, the Division Supervisor for the sandbagging operation at the Dakota Dunes incident site.

The Gateway facility in North Sioux City is the highest producing sandbag location in the area as military personnel, inmates and volunteers are producing up to 150,000 sandbags per day at the location, Crawford said.

With the success crews have achieved in manufacturing sandbags, ensuring the operation continues to meet the rising demand has presented a challenge for Crawford.

“Sand has really become a limiting factor, and I am trying to get ahead on our supplies,” he said.

Sand is being hauled via railcar into Sioux City and transported to operation sites by any one of the 48 dump trucks being used in the operation, yet the supply has barely kept up with the demand, Crawford noted. 

“We are working with the sand company now and will increase the operation to two railcars and start hauling directly from the quarry with tandem dump trucks,” he said.

 Crawford ordered 4 million more empty sandbags yesterday to ensure supplies last. He estimated that the sandbagging operation is going through a total of 750,000 full and empty sandbags a day.

“All of the supplies are critical,” he said.  “As this operation expands we have to plan two or three days out and really keep ahead on our logistics.”

Despite the challenges the operation is facing, the success in production is a tribute to the people working day and night to protect the residents of the community.

“It’s amazing how well people have come together to get this job done,” Crawford said.  “There has been an outstanding effort from all the people involved in this operation and ultimately they are getting the job done.”

Army Sgt.1st Class Darren Bigge, of the SDARNG’s 153rd Forward Support Company from Parkston, is very impressed with the effort and attitude he has seen from his fellow Guardsmen since they arrived May 31.

“They have given a tremendous effort,” Bigge said. “It is hot out here and the labor is tedious and backbreaking. Yet everyone has showed a great attitude as we work together to support the residents along the Missouri River.”

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Additional Guard members mobilized for duty along the Missouri River

By Air Force Capt. Michael Frye
South Dakota Air National Guard

PIERRE, S.D. - More than 1,000 South Dakota National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are now supporting flooding operations in the Pierre, Fort Pierre, Dakota Dunes, Vermillion, and Yankton communities. 

The 235th Military Police Company and 153rd Engineer Battalion mobilized 75 personnel for operations in Dakota Dunes on June 2.  An additional 125 Soldiers and Airmen are scheduled to be mobilized from both the 235th and 114th Fighter Wing to conduct security operations in the Vermillion area beginning June 4.

Airmen from the 114th, from Sioux Falls, S.D., continue to fill sandbags and provide traffic security throughout the communities. Beginning June 3, more than 90 Airmen will begin levee patrols, security and surveillance in Pierre and Fort Pierre.

“The 114th Fighter Wing Airmen bring with them a high level of experience from both their military and civilian careers,” said Air Force Capt. Joe Hardin, officer in charge for the 114th Fighter Wing Detachment.

“As our mission changes to increased levee patrols, and traffic management with local law enforcement, I’m confident the Airmen of the 114th Fighter Wing will perform with exceptional professionalism.”

Once the levee is completed, 40 Soldiers will be designated as a Quick Response Force team to assist with fixing areas within the levee that may be affected by the flood, said Army Maj. Martin Yost, Task Force 147th commander.

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter joined the flood fight in the Pierre area, said Lt. Col. Aaron Jordan, the South Dakota Liaison Officer for the Emergency Operations Center.  The helicopter’s primary mission will be to place 1-ton sandbags in areas where the levee system may have a breach, especially in remote, hard to reach areas.

South Dakota National Guard service members continue to work side-by-side with community members filling sandbags.

“As I’ve been out visiting with the Soldiers and Airmen in the communities I see them working really hard with smiles on their faces,” said Jordan “They’re really trying to make a difference and trying to help the people in these communities, and the residents have been very appreciative.”

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