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    Engineers critical to Chaves County road clearing

    Engineers critical to Chaves County road clearing

    Photo By Sgt. John Montoya | Spc. Justin Jeffers, a Soldier with the 920th Engineering Company, uses a Backhoe...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. John Montoya 

    Joint Force Headquarters - New Mexico National Guard

    ROSWELL, N.M. - Snow. Who clears it when there is a few inches? Usually, no one. It just melts. What about a foot? Maybe local government such as the city or the county. When it snows nearly two feet in 24 hours as it did on Dec. 26-27, and continues snowing after that; what happens next?

    Soldiers from the New Mexico National Guard's 920th Engineer Company, based in Roswell, stood up to respond after the local government resources worked flat out and still could not meet the needs of the communities struck by winter storm Goliath.

    According to 1st Lt. Ernest Carlson, officer in charge of the 920th Engineer Company, said the 920th cleared snow from nearly 25.5 miles of road by Dec. 30 despite the fact they do not typically to train for snow removal.

    "We don't usually move snow. We move aggregate, dirt," said Carlson.

    In the city of Roswell, young Soldiers such as Spc. George Gonzales from the 920th's Det. 1 based in Hobbs, cleared up parts of Main Street with a small, yet useful piece of equipment called a Skid-Steer Loader. Gonzales said it was easy to drive and allowed for the driver to clear smaller areas and get into tighter spots.

    He said the residents were supportive, which helped boost his morale.

    "We're doing a lot of good work out there and everyone has been really appreciative," he said.

    Clearing roads may seem like a boring task, but they are essential for life. Horizontal Construction Engineers Sgt. Timoteo Delapaz and Sgt. Ezequial Leyva cleared remote roads outside the small town of Hagerman, New Mexico. They connected several rural households to a nearby highway and the outside world.

    Maj. Randall Bates, 717th Brigade Support Battalion Administrative Officer said, "The people out in the county are the ones we have the biggest concern about. We have to push miles and miles of snow to get to them."

    Hagerman residents Brendon Hairston and John Pilley said they had not left their homes until the heavy equipment these Soldiers were operating made the road passable enough to drive their vehicles to the nearby highway.

    Hairston said, "I think it was great that the Guard came out here! We didn't know when the roads would be cleared and we had been stuck here since Saturday night."

    In addition to clearing the streets of Roswell and the county roads outside of town, 920th Soldiers helped individuals get their vehicles unstuck from snow drifts and provided them with transportation to their homes if their vehicle could not be pulled out from a drift. Sgt. Misael Castillo-Rascon described an incident in the north part of Roswell on Dec. 29 where he helped a sport utility vehicle out of a dangerous situation.

    "We had about ten feet of snow to the left and to the right. It was on an untraveled road, the ice was melting, and water was coming up to the door on a 2010 Expedition. We strapped a cord from their bumper to the HMMWV(High Mobility Multipurposed Wheeled-Vehicle) and pulled them back to a cleared road," said Castillo-Rascon.

    Another operator, Sgt. Iris Ruiz who is in the middle of a move to Las Cruces to become a New Mexico National Guard recruiter used her skills as a Horizontal Construction Engineer to help clear the streets of Roswell. She volunteered to help in the emergency efforts by operating a backhoe loader. She said she noticed a mother with two young children and witnessed the children slip and fall on a patch of ice.

    "I went to talk to them, to ask them if they were OK and where they were heading. They said they were going to Allsup's and they were out of milk, eggs, and all that good stuff," said Ruiz.

    Ruiz returned with her car to the family and gave them a ride to a grocery store. She said the children looked like they were cold and the nearby Allsup's gas station was out of the groceries they wanted to buy. In addition to helping out this family and clearing the streets of snow around the old Air Force base at the south end of Roswell, Ruiz also helped three vehicles get unstuck on Dec. 30.

    The Soldiers from the 920th responded to other personal disasters caused by the snowstorm. Carlson and Staff Sgt. Oscar Maciel helped the fire department retrieve a vehicle from a collapsed carport. Carlson said they helped shovel the snow away from the carport, lift up the crumpled carport, and backed the car out of the wrecked carport.

    These are just a small collection of stories of the many people the Soldiers of the 920th helped through this difficult post-snow storm environment. The 920th will continue to clear snow and help people get unstuck until relieved of duty by the governor.



    Date Taken: 01.02.2016
    Date Posted: 01.04.2016 17:32
    Story ID: 185630
    Location: ROSWELL, NM, US 

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