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Air National Guard works to corral Mississippi

by Staff Sgt. Patrick Brown
Air Force News Agency

6/19/2008 - GREEN BAY BOTTOM, Iowa (AFPN) -- The men and women of the 185th Air Refueling Squadron from Sioux City, Iowa, are teaming with local farmers to maintain the 20 miles of levees, keeping the flooded Mississippi from inundating the 14 thousand acres of homes and farmland here.

The river is flowing 23 feet over flood levels and 20 feet over the corn fields that line it near the farming community of Burlington in Green Bay Bottom, Iowa.

"It would have been devastating without the (Air National) Guard here," said local resident Robert Mozingo, a retired mechanical engineer who owns farmland and horse stables in Green Bay Bottom. Land owners there estimate over $5 million in crop losses had the levees not held. "I don't think we could have kept the levees up without them. I've never seen such support."

Residents used 16 bulldozers to push dirt from the side of the existing levees to the top June 12 and 13, raising them from 22 feet to 26, to prevent the nearly 25-foot-high water from breaching the top, said Vick Pierrot, the secretary of the treasury for the Green Bay Bottom Levee and Drainage district.

The levee height proved to be just enough to hold the Mississippi back, but the sides of the levees were left weak and water is seeping through in some places as the water slowly recedes. That's where the Air National Guard came in. Guardsmen have been layering the sides of the levee with straw and reinforcing that with stakes driven into the levees to keep the sides from eroding as the water seeps through. The river isn't expected to recede for several days and erosion from seepage could distroy the town's people's efforts.

"The higher the water, the more pressure builds and more water comes through," said Mr. Pierrot. "So when the seep comes through the levee, we run the risk of having a blow out. That's the worst case scenario. The goal here is to leave at the end of the week with dry feet. A leek in the side of the levee could result in a huge cavern and we could all be treading water here today."

"It feels great to be able to come out and help our fellow Iowans," said Chief Mater Sergeant Todd Pry, the 185th ARW Material Management Flight superintendant, who is one of the 85 Airmen here shoring up the levee.

Chief Pry said he feels the residents greatly appreciate what the Airmen here have done.

"You can just see it (the appreciation) in their eyes and in return, their support for us has been great," he said.

The residents have been able to capitalize not only on the manpower the Guard has been able to provide, but the organization they bring as well, said Mr. Pierrot.

"We need more help and the Guard provides ready access to a group of organized people who come with their own transportation, their own leadership," he said. "They've been a tremendous asset."

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