News: Numbers continue to increase in Bismarck-Mandan flood fight
By Spc. Cassandra Simonton
BISMARCK, N.D. — Guardsmen 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 members 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 by Friday, June 3.
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 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, Guardsmen say.
“I wish I could do anything more,” said Sgt. Jessica Smith, a member of the 132nd Quartermaster Company out of Cando, N.D. “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.
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 Guardsmen 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 Sgt. Jamie Henrickson, a member of the 132nd Quartermaster Company.
Guardsmen 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.