News: Walking around the clock
BISMARCK, N.D. - Whether the sun has yet to rise, it’s the heat of a mid-summer afternoon or the glow of the moon is lighting their mosquito-filled path, North Dakota National Guard members are on guard and on patrol to keep the cities of Bismarck and Mandan safe by preventing further flood damage. The mission takes no breaks for weekends or holidays.
“As long as we have a mission, they are on track with it,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Joel Walsvik. “From quick reaction force teams to levee walkers to the command and control of the mission, we need every one of them for the skills they bring to the table. Since we have an all-volunteer force, each one of them is a valuable asset.”
About 200 North Dakota National Guard members continue to serve in the communities. Fourteen teams patrol levees around the clock, and three quick reaction force teams are stationed throughout Burleigh and Morton counties, ready to respond at a moment’s notice to repair a levee or provide other flood-related support. Additionally, Guard equipment — such as a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and a high-wheeled tractor-trailer — are on standby for any needed response.
After more than a month on 12-hour levee patrol shifts near the Missouri River, Guardsmen will have the opportunity for a slight reprieve beginning today as they transition to 8-hour shifts.
“It’s been a long mission for our flood fighters. The Missouri River won’t give us a break. Despite the reduced flows coming out of the Garrison Dam, the river in Bismarck-Mandan remains within inches of its peak level,” said Lt. Col. Robert Ruud, Task Force Flood commander. “Our now-100-percent volunteer force here in Bismarck-Mandan has endured many weeks of long hours and working through a couple of three-day holiday weekends, yet our soldiers and airmen continue to perform their mission with true dedication and unwavering vigilance.”
While the National Guard is an all-volunteer force, it’s also unique from active-duty military in that Guardsmen have civilian employers, as well. In an effort to balance the military and civilian workload, the majority who remain on duty across the state have volunteered for the mission, which is now in its 45th day. As a result, the flood workers have a variety of backgrounds, hailing from both the Army and Air National Guard and the multiple units within each force. That background hasn’t degraded the response in the least, leaders say.
“I’m proud of them, especially of how they have all come together after not being in the same unit and not knowing how one another works,” Walsvik said. “It’s especially impressive because of the diversity and cooperation.”
In addition to the 200 North Dakota Guardsmen combating the Missouri River flooding in the Bismarck-Mandan area, more than 400 are fighting the flooding Souris River to the north. Their efforts are being supplemented with about 120 Minnesota National Guard members who arrived last night in addition to about 100 Airmen from the Minot Air Force Base.
Including spring flooding in eastern North Dakota this year, North Dakota Guardsmen have now dedicated more than 47,000 days worth of work to protecting life and property from floodwaters.
Date Posted:07.06.2011 19:21
Location:BISMARCK, ND, US
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