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NEWS | June 8, 2011

SPECIAL: 18,479 workdays and counting in extended North Dakota flood fight

North Dakota National Guard report

18,479 man-days and counting in extended North Dakota flood fight

BISMARK, N.D. - From May 24 to June 7, North Dakota National Guard members had contributed 18,479 workdays fighting the 2011 floods.

One workday equals one Soldier or Airman times the number of days he or she spent on flood duty.

Earlier this year, the North Dakota National Guard spent 32 days on flood operations across the state, with 1,486 Guardsmen contributing to the effort at some point during the mission.

As Ward, Morton and Burleigh counties faced quickly rising floodwaters, Gov. Jack Dalrymple activated the Guard to respond in those areas.

Guard members will provide support as requested through the Department of Emergency Services, and are on standby for additional response.

About 1,500 Guard members are on flood duty today.

Guard members are on flood-related missions in Bismarck/Burleigh, Mandan/Morton and Minot/Ward County. Around 400 Guardsmen are in Ward County, and around 1,100 are in Burleigh / Morton Counties.

The number of personnel will decrease rapidly in the next few days as the North Dakota National Guard transitions to sustainment operations, such as dike monitoring and Quick Reaction Forces and Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen return to their regular jobs and lives.

It may take as much as three days for deactivated units to travel home, clean and put away their equipment, and outprocess their personnel. Some personnel from deactivated units may remain on flood duty as volunteers. The Guard continues to monitor the state for potential flood operations.

The Guard’s flood support in the Bismarck-Mandan area includes sandbagging operations, traffic control points, Civil Military Assistance teams, heavy equipment operation, haul missions, reconnaissance, dike construction, dike patrols and Quick Reaction Forces.

In the Minot area, the Guard is patrolling 21 miles of levees from Minot to Burlington, staffing traffic control points and providing quick reaction force teams for any needed response. Presence patrols are moving through evacuated areas for security while residents are away. The Guard has helicopters, high-wheeled vehicles and filled sandbags ready for needed response.

As the first military responders in the state, the North Dakota National Guard remains prepared with personnel and equipment to assist our communities and state when ordered by the governor.

A total of 3,300 Soldiers and Airmen are available to perform flood-response duties.

The North Dakota National Guard, as well as the state’s Department of Emergency Services, the Governor’s Office and other state agencies, has prepared for flood response.

Gov. Dalrymple has called up Soldiers and Airmen to serve on state active duty in to support severe summer flood operations in Ward County/Minot, Morton County/Mandan and Burleigh County/Bismarck.  

Elsewhere in the state, the North Dakota National Guard remains vigilant to potential missions supporting civil authorities in its communities. The Guard will continue to respond with appropriate personnel and resources when ordered by the governor.

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Guard members walk the line of levees

By Army Spc. Lance Schillinger
116th Public Affairs Detachment

BISMARCK, N.D.- North Dakota National Guard personnel have now shifted their focus from filling sandbags to another important task – levee surveillance and patrol.

And they are going on their patrols knowing exactly what they are looking for on the levees throughout their assigned area.

“Levees and dikes can leak,” said Army Lt. Matthew Voeller as he explained the importance of everyone’s role. “Even the Hoover Dam leaks,” he said during a class on proper dike observation. This group of Soldiers was learning about what to look for when out on patrol.

“Your role is to observe and report,” Voeller said to his class. “Document the conditions of anything you see.”

The role of the dike patrollers is a vital part of keeping Minot, Bismarck and Mandan safe as the flood waters continue to challenge these communities. Along the levees, there is potential for water to come in from under the ground or even straight through to the other side, which is why it’s important to always have someone watching.

“Water takes the path of least resistance,” said Voeller as he pointed out how water may come through the structures on a visual representation of a levee.  

A dike patrol is taught how to spot potential issues within the structures, and they are shown how to measure cracks and holes. They also learn to take pictures of anything that they believe could become an issue within the system and report it to higher headquarters.

“These are what we are taught to look for,” said Army Spc. Brent Noonan while on a dike patrol. Noonan holds a paper full of examples of boils and leaks that could potentially come from the structure. “Then we record as much information as possible and report it on to higher command.”

The patrols last for about eight hours before they are rotated out and fresh eyes come in to observe. The Soldiers are determined to protect the cities on their mission of watching and ensuring the soundness of the structures that hold back potentially dangerous waters.

The Guard members are patrolling 6.5 miles of levees in Mandan/Morton County, and nine miles of levees in Bismarck/Burleigh County.

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The Guard that supports the Guard

North Dakota National Guard report

MINOT, N.D. - It takes multiple people, working a wide variety of jobs, to make a flood fight successful.

While many of our North Dakota National Guardsman are out in the Minot community sandbagging, patrolling levees, controlling traffic, and keeping an eye on the community, there is another group of service members back in the operation center ensuring that these people come off their shifts to warm food, a place to sleep and that they have no pay issues.

“We track personnel, equipment and phone numbers,” said Army Capt. Ryan Kaufman, the164th Headquarter Headquarters Company’s and 164th Foreword Support Company’s commander. “And this process ensures that the mission is completed.”

Army Staff Sgt. Rebecca Haider, of the 164th Engineering Battalion, works in the administrative office handling pay, and keeping track of the paperwork involved for people to in and out process when they come on flood duty or off. Haider said keeping track of these things alleviates some of the stress for Soldiers as they are out in the field fighting the flood.

“They trust us and know that their pay will be entered, so they can keep working without worry,” said Haider.

The logistics office is extremely active during flooding, as they take care of supply issues and support the units who are supporting their Soldiers. They make the arrangement for vehicles, food and lodging for the individual units as needed.

The quick acceleration of the flood fight in Minot brought many challenges to the logistics team. Such as the increase from 32 soldiers to over 600 in less than 48 hours, said Capt. Dana Schagunn, one of the logistics officers.

The flooding impacted everyone, including one of the primary food vendors. Many of his employees were in the primary flood zone. “He’s doing a fantastic job,” said Schagunn. “He got less sleep than anyone here did.”

“In spite of his short staff he kept delivering even as we accelerated the number, until we found another vendor for box lunches,” said Schagunn.

“We also had excellent support from the Bismarck staff, the turnaround time was fantastic on all requests for support,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Ralph Yester. Depending on the items needed, the response time from Bismarck was usually under four hours, which greatly helped move along the process.

Once the vehicles are acquired they can seek maintenance and fuel at the Armed Forces Reserve Center’s Maintenance Shop.

“The more vehicles that are used, the more issues you may have,” said Army Staff Sgt. Ward Simonton, a mechanic with the 164th Engineering Battalion. “When you have that many vehicles going in and out of water you start to see some general maintenance issues.”

The maintenance shop, along with all other aspects of the support staff, is available 24 hours a day to ensure that when a problem arises, the quickest solution possible is found.

The operations center is the office that is in charge of all the missions. They get their missions from higher headquarters and disperse them to the units. They are a liaison with the city officials and report everything back to Bismarck’s joint operations center.

Even the kitchen staff ensures that an accurate record of meals is kept, to ensure accuracy and continuity. With so many Soldiers working in different places, there is a lot of food going out during the day.

Though the support staff does not get the instant satisfaction of being able to see a levee being built, or interact with the community you are fighting to save, the support staff gets fulfillment in taking care of National Guard Soldiers and Airmen.

With 20 percent of the 600 service members volunteering to stay on longer to help, this is the group that will make sure all their needs are met today and long term.

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Guard transitions from building to monitoring

By Army Sgt. Jesica Geffre
116th Public Affairs Detachment

BISMARCK, N.D. - The North Dakota National Guard performing flood duty in Bismarck and Mandan is now transitioning from immediate response in the form of prepping sandbags and building levees to levee monitoring and response teams.

Guard members will be patrolling the 15 or so miles of levee 24 hours a day. Every area will be closely monitored. Quick reaction teams will also be ready to respond in the event an emergency occurs.

During the past week, the NDNG has been assisting local contractors in placing primary levees throughout Bismarck and Mandan and Burleigh and Morton counties to combat the anticipated floodwaters.

The 816th Engineer Company (Horizontal) and members of their Detachment 1 provided clay-hauling trucks and drivers to complete a levee at 9 p.m. one night south of Bismarck.

Many units were involved with the project and sealing the levee is the next stage of the mission. The 957th Engineer (MRB) Company hauled in sandbags that were offloaded by steer skids operated by the Air Guard’s Happy Hooligans.

The Army and Air Guard are working together to provide a seal for the levee that involves an overlay of plastic and sandbags to secure it.

Officer-in-charge of the Civil Engineering Squadron of 119th Wing, Air Force Capt. Matt Tronnes, said the work for the sealing of the levee is progressing ahead of schedule.

“They’ve been doing an excellent job,” said Tronnes. “With thousands of feet to cover and limited access to the area, much of the work is done manually.”

The 815th Engineer Company has been operating a clay borrow pit north of Mandan and hauling the clay to various locations throughout Task Force Mandan areas and participated in the Southport clay-hauling mission in south Bismarck.

Army 1st Lt. Jared Bollon, acting commander of the 815th, says many of the Soldiers have just served on flood duty in Fargo for about one month, then did their annual training for two weeks and were called up for this flood response shortly thereafter.

In addition to their other missions, 815th is also assisting the Civil Military Assistance Teams by using steer skids to load sandbags onto trucks at the Raging Rivers sandbag distribution center and delivering them to areas where they are needed to reinforce levees in residential areas.

Bollon said the morale remains high and that the Soldiers are excited to get out and use their skills in a real world mission.

“They love operating equipment,” Bollon said. “They’re glad to be out here and do their job.” Bollon said the civilian support has been outstanding and they are grateful for the support the community has shown.

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Guard vigilant in Minot as dike patrols continue

By Army Spc. Cassandra Simonton
116th PAD

MINOT, N.D. - There are many ways in which the North Dakota National Guard defends against flooding; one of the most continuous efforts is dike walking, which has been in effect in Minot and Burlington since May 23.

Through dike patrols, Soldiers have been able to watch for any water seepage or erosion, as well as keep an eye on the community and bring a military presence to evacuated areas.

Currently the 164th Engineering Battalion and a number of other National Guard units have had their Soldiers on 12-hour shifts, walking in teams along sections of more than 20 miles of dikes from Minot to Burlington. All levees are checked at least four times in a 24-hour period.

Army Sgt. Wade Piccard, of the North Dakota National Guard’s 164th Engineering Battalion, was on patrol for the night shift on June 2 when he noticed something was amiss with a bridge, said Army Sgt. 1st Class Jamie Hyatt, also of the 164th Engineer Battalion.

Working with the city and engineers, it was declared that the bridge had actually shifted two inches. Though the bridge was designed to be able to shift and the move was completely normal, bridge engineers still inspected the structure. It was able to be reopened upon inspection, but Piccard’s sharp eyes have impressed many people.

“Literally this could have been a serious incident that he prevented,” said Hyatt. “The city and the Corps of Engineers were very impressed with his find.”

While on patrol for any changes in the structural integrity of the dikes, Soldiers also are able watch over the evacuated homes.

“While we’re out there we have eyes on the community so suspicious activities can be reported,” said Hyatt.

Recently the 164th Engineer Battalion has increased the number of Guard members patrolling the dikes. There are now four per team with two on each side of the river in several areas, to increase the presence. The protocol for Soldiers on patrol is to report any suspicious activity to the Minot Police, who then investigate.

According to Hyatt, with the National Guard on patrol, citizens can rest assured they are doing all they can to ensure the safety of residents’ homes as well as the integrity of the dike system.

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New Underwood teens help in Fort Pierre

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

FORT PIERRE, S.D. - Teens traveled across the state June 1 to assist the Pierre communities in sandbagging and building levees in an effort to block encroaching flood waters from reaching structures near the Missouri River.

A community effort transformed the 26 young volunteers from New Underwood into sandbagging activists, said Joel Hovland, New Underwood principal and bus driver. Parents and employers were supportive as well, said Hovland. They agreed to let their kids take some time off to volunteer to help the Pierre area.

The trip began when New Underwood Superintendant, Jeff Marlette, who also serves as the assistant adjutant general of the South Dakota Army National Guard, initiated a discussion with fellow employees about the flooding efforts taking place in Pierre and what they could do to help.

The discussion turned to how this would be a great opportunity for New Underwood students to give back to their community by traveling to the Pierre area to provide flood support for those affected communities.

A brief call from Marlette to the football coach, Clint Nelson, and English teacher April Scott got the ball rolling. Help would soon be on its way.

Nelson immediately began calling around for volunteers willing to travel to Pierre the next day to help sandbag and build levees. Within a very short time, Coach Nelson had more than 20 students ready to go to Pierre and Fort Pierre areas.

Nelson said most New Underwood teens replied simply with, “When do we leave?”

 “It was great to see how the kids stepped up,” said Irene Madsen, school business manager, who also volunteered her time, like the students, and traveled to Pierre to help those in need.

“I am very proud of how the students and staff jumped on the idea to support the Pierre and Fort Pierre communities,” said Marlette. “We have a really great bunch of students here in New Underwood. It demonstrates how even at a young age these students know what it means to be a South Dakotan, always willing to step up and help their neighbors in need.”

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National Guard’s civil military assistance teams bring help to neighborhoods facing flooding

BISMARCK, N.D. - Bismarck-Mandan is facing a new kind of flood, and the North Dakota National Guard is responding with a new method of fighting it.
Civil Military Assistance Teams, or CMATs, have spread throughout the community to help residents with the uncertainty and questions they’re dealing with as unprecedented flows are coming through Garrison Dam and headed their way along the Missouri River.

It’s the first time the teams have been used as part of North Dakota Guard flood operations.

As the CMATs ramped up, 14 teams consisting of up to a dozen Guard members worked in Bismarck and Mandan areas that fall on the potentially “wet side” of protection efforts.

Homeowners in those areas have been constructing their own flood protection with sandbags and trap bags. Guardsmen with the CMATs have been walking from house to house with information and updates.

“We have brochures to help them build dikes properly so they can hopefully withstand the water when it comes,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Freddie Griffin, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of a CMAT working in the Hogue Island area. Soldiers on his team come from the Guard’s 134th Quartermaster Detachment and the 133rd Quartermaster Detachment.

Besides providing information, the teams let residents know when and where sandbags would be hauled into their neighborhoods.

“Once we started talking to people, we were pretty well-received by everybody here,” Griffin said.

“The 957th Engineer Company (Multi-role) is bringing in all the sandbags and we’re making sure everyone gets in, in an orderly manner, and gets sandbags off of the truck here,” Griffin said as large flatbed trucks pulled into the Hogue neighborhood.

He was impressed with how the community had turned out to help, even bringing their own skid steer loaders to help move the pallets from the military trucks to pickups lined up to receive the sandbags.

“The community came out and helped a lot,” he said. “There have been some very helpful people that have come out.”

Army Spc. Micah Tweten was one of the CMAT Soldiers at the pick-up point, serving on his first flood mission since joining the North Dakota National Guard three years ago.

“I’ve been helping out filling the sandbags and doing security, in a sense, so there’s not a free-for-all on the sandbags,” he said.

Residents were allowed to pick up one pallet at a time, but could turn around and get right back in line if they wanted more on their trip. The line was moving smoothly. As one truck from the 957th Engineers emptied, another was waiting nearby to pull up and provide more bags for the homeowners.

“It’s going really good,” said Army Sgt. Casey Bosch, one of the truck drivers hauling pallets of sandbags in as part of the 957th Engineer Company mission. “They’re really appreciative. They’re real thankful. They say nothing could be done without us.”

In addition to the CMATs and haul missions, North Dakota National Guard members are helping in Bismarck and Mandan at sandbag filling sites and in residential neighborhoods constructing levees. Traffic control points manned by Guard members are increasing safety and easing congestion as the operations continue.

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National Guard recruits join flood effort

By Army Spc. Cassandra Simonton
116th Public Affairs Detachment

BISMARCK, N.D. - In a first-of-its-kind activation, some of the newest members of the North Dakota National Guard are getting a taste for one of the missions for which they signed up to perform: flood duty.

Members from the Bismarck and Devils Lake Recruit Training Companies, or RTCs, activated May 28 to assist with sandbagging in Bismarck and Mandan, N.D.

The RTC program gives newly enlisted Soldiers training and knowledge to help them through their initial entry training and first assignments. Soldiers drill once a month at RTC units prior to leaving for Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training.

“In all the years that the RTCs have been around, we have not activated them,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Dean Lundin, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the Devils Lake RTC.

About 70 RTC Soldiers arrived in Bismarck on May 29 and more than 60 more arrived the next day.

The latest arrivals were celebrating their high school graduations a day before they donned uniforms to do the job they recently signed up to do as they help their neighbors.

Besides the chance to assist others, the young Soldiers will receive an emergency service ribbon that they will wear on their dress uniforms. Being able to start their careers with a decoration will set them apart from their fellow recruits from across the nation who will not have earned any ribbons this early in their military career.

“They are getting a state ribbon for this, so when they do go to Basic Training they will already have one ribbon,” Lundin said. “This also gives them a chance to realize how many people count on the Guard.”

The young recruits’ first mission quickly impressed on them the importance of the duty they have decided to pursue.

“It’s definitely organized chaos here,” said Army Pfc. Matt Ruby, of the Devils Lake RTC. “Things are running a lot smoother than I expected. I’ve never seen some of these machines before and everything works really well.

“It’s nice to get some hands-on experience.”

RTC soldiers are working 12-hour shifts and staying at the University of Mary to rest in between.

Everyone is excited to be here and a part of the action,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer Jammy Ryckman, Recruit Training Battalion commander. “A lot of them ship out in June, so they’re getting a piece of training before they ship.”

It’s something the new Soldiers are embracing.

“In previous floods they’ve wanted to be a part of flood operations and haven’t had the opportunity to participate,” Ryckman said. “This has been a great experience. I’m sure they’re learning a lot about teamwork.”

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Numbers increase in Bismarck-Mandan flood fight

By Army Spc. Cassandra Simonton
116th Public Affairs Detachment

BISMARCK, N.D. - Guard members continue to work around the clock with Bismarck-Mandan residents to help protect the community, producing as many as 25,000 sandbags an hour during the day.

About 1,500 North Dakota National Guard have now been activated to help with flooding operations around the Missouri River, and they’ve filled an estimated 1 million sandbags in the past several days.

Local residents and contributions from other communities have helped push the community halfway to the predicted 8 million sandbags that will be needed.

Besides helping with sandbagging operations, service members are conducting traffic control points, providing levee patrols and pitching in wherever else a formal request takes them.

“It’s nice to come out here and see the community working together,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class John Sayler, with recruiting and retention, who was assisting with sandbagging operations. “You see a lot of your friends. I’ve even seen some of my family. We’re all fighting the same fight.”

When you serve in the Guard, you’re serving for your neighbors, friends and family, Guard members say.

“I wish I could do anything more,” said Army Sgt. Jessica Smith, a member of the 132nd Quartermaster Company. “It’s heart-wrenching. You don’t know what to say to them and you want to be reassuring, so I just keep a smile on my face and keep fighting the flood in any way I can.”

Smith is assisting at one of the 13 traffic control points emplaced in Bismarck for public safety in conjunction with local law enforcement.

Army Chief Warrant Officer Justin Gartner, the officer-in-charge of daytime operations for the Guard’s 1st Battalion, 112th Aviation Regiment, said his Soldiers had been busy with sandbagging operations in Mandan and were pleased to provide extra help when it was needed there. In the instance of one elderly gentleman with a heart condition, Gartner was happy to lend a hand.

“He was told at the gate that he would have to fill his own sandbags, and then he found me,” Gartner said. “I got about four other Guard guys, and they hopped on his truck and he had a full load in about 10 minutes. That’s the people I’m looking out for,” Gartner said, “the elderly and the people without families.”

Many Guard members reported to their units across the state in a matter of hours after being notified and were soon in Bismarck to help.

“We had a great showing of people in our unit from Fargo and Grand Forks who showed up in great time,” Gartner said. “It’s pretty impressive how many of our guys were able to come on considering we have a group preparing for a deployment, among other things.”

In some cases, family members were activated together to aid in the flood fight.

“My youngest son is down here with my unit, and my middle son is here with the Deuce (3662nd Maintenance Company),” said Army Sgt. Jamie Henrickson, a member of the 132nd Quartermaster Company.

Guard members who do not live in the immediate Bismarck/Mandan area are being lodged at the Bismarck Civic Center and their meals are provided at Raymond J. Bohn Armory.

“We do a lot of things with the National Guard,” said Cindy Sanders, an employee with the Doublewood Inn, which is preparing the meals. “We had to get a full team here in a short amount of time. You guys are always so much fun to work with.”

From sandbagging to meals, working to protect the community is definitely a group effort, many say.

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