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Home : News
NEWS | March 26, 2007

Helicopter crews help prevent flooding in Maryland

By Capt. David Magness Maryland National Guard

OAKLAND, Md. - Soldiers and their helicopters from two Maryland National Guard aviation companies were called out in early March to move pumps into position to drain water from an overflowing reservoir.

Water from a 7.5-million gallon reservoir in this small western Maryland mountain town was pouring over an earthen dam, threatening the safety of homes and businesses downstream. Beavers had clogged the dam's drainage pipe so thoroughly that divers could not clear it. To make matters worse, warmer temperatures were forecast that would melt the snow pack and raise the water level. The reservoir urgently needed to be drained of some of its water.

Soldiers from Company B, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation and Company C, 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation used CH-47 Chinook helicopters to lift two 8,900-pound pumps into place so they could begin draining the water and easing the pressure on the dam. UH-60 helicopters were also used in the operation.

The helicopters and crews overcame several challenges, including small landing and pickup zones with encroaching wires and buildings, unusual loads and nighttime operations.

Almost all of the members of newly-minted Company B were new to the CH-47 and were not experienced in this type of mission. Combat veterans of the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade and Company C aided their Chinook brethren.

The helicopter crews rehearsed for the mission by hauling a 4,000-pound oil tank to the top of the dam and carefully setting it down.

After the pumps were in place and operating, the reservoir level was brought down, allowing workers to unclog the drainage pipe and avoid a potential flood.

The training gained by the deploying B Company will prove instrumental to the war fight and to future emergency hurricane and flood missions in the United States, said Col. Fritz Kirklighter, the 29th CAB commander.

"This mission was a tremendous success," said Kirklighter. "Citizen-Soldiers took time off from their jobs and families to help their neighbors in need. We were needed to support the people of Maryland, which also gave our Soldiers better training to refine both our state and combat operation missions."