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Guard Ratchets up in Missouri, Tackles Flooding in 5 States

Jun 20, 2008
BY Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill

ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, June 20, 2008) - Missouri is the latest Midwest state to see increasing numbers of National Guard Citizen-Soldiers on duty in the face of the region's worst flooding in 15 years.

"Our priority is to protect the lives of Missouri's residents and their property," Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt said during a visit to flood-affected areas with National Guard officials. "Then we will focus on recovery efforts."

"As Missourians continue to face the rising waters of the Mississippi, their Missouri National Guard stands beside them in the fight," said Maj. Gen. King Sidwell, the adjutant general.

More than 5,700 National Guard troops were responding to flooding in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin on June 19, a peak since the Guard started deploying troops in the face of rising waters June 7.

A response that began in Indiana spread with the water to Wisconsin June 9, Iowa the next day and Illinois and Missouri June 14. Indiana operations wound down Wednesday after 11 days.

But the threat was far from over farther south on the Mississippi River as cresting waters brought sandbagging in towns along the river there.

Residents in towns already flooded faced weeks of cleanup and mounds of trash to dispose of. Twenty-four people have died and 148 have been injured during June's storms and flooding, the AP reported. Damages are estimated in the billions of dollars.

Fourteen Missouri counties were affected, National Guard Bureau officials reported.

Guard officials were monitoring both the Mississippi and Missouri rivers as more than 700 troops responded, focusing on Clarksville and Wentzville. Water had crested or breached levees, and more were threatened.

"We have troops doing work on the ground from Alexandria to Winfield," said Capt. Tammy Spicer, a Missouri Guard spokesperson. Alexandria is in the north. Winfield is just north of St. Louis. The Guard was monitoring the situation the length of the Mississippi in Missouri, she said. The Missouri Guard has established a Northeast Task Force overseeing seven units supporting communities facing rising water, it was reported this week.

Lt. Col. William McKinney, the task force commander, said that the Guard is working hard to protect the local population and has deployed every necessary resource available.

Missouri National Guard members are currently mobilized in the communities of Hannibal, the boyhood home of famed American writer Mark Twain, and Clarksville, Canton, West Quincy, LaGrange and Alexandria, assisting with sandbagging operations, levee monitoring and limited security operations.

To combat future flooding threats, the Guard has also established a quick reaction force in Louisiana, Mo. The Guard has also posted liaison officers to work with state and local officials in Clark, Lewis, Marion, Ralls, Pike and Lincoln counties.

Among the units deployed is the 1438th Engineer Company from Macon. Several members from that unit were deployed to the area after returning from a two-week annual training exercise in South Dakota.

Spc. John Crawford, of St. Louis, said that though the flooding has kept him from returning to work, his employers know the importance of his mission.

"It is a great thing the Guard is doing up here," Crawford said. "I have been helping fill and transport sandbags to the levees."

The Guard was sandbagging, monitoring levees and securing evacuated areas. They were also providing command and control, communications and tactical operations support to civilian authorities. The latest operations were similar to Guard actions throughout the Midwest this month:

• Illinois: More than 1,100 Guardmembers assisted with communications and sandbagging.

• Indiana: Operation Noah's Ark concluded Thursday. The height of the mission saw more than 1,400 Guardmembers on duty sandbagging, providing security, conducting search and rescue missions and distributing water.

• Iowa: More than 4,200 Guardmembers remained on duty as the state faced a public health emergency caused by lost water supplies. Massive flooding rendered 83 of the state's 99 counties under state disaster declarations. Guardmembers focused on preventing more flooding; providing drinking water, generators, security and transportation; conducting aerial damage assessment and other operations.

• Wisconsin: About 230 Guardmembers provided communications, generators, security and transport. The Guard also assisted with aerial damage assessments, filling and grading on washed-out roads and removing debris, NGB officials reported.

Meanwhile, Guardmembers were on duty assisting Border Patrol agents in four Southwest Border states, tackling wildfires, ferrying drinking water to residents of several New Mexico towns, supporting Louisiana police, providing critical infrastructure protection in Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, flying critical air sovereignty missions nationwide and running Counterdrug operations.

(Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill serves in the National Guard Bureau Public Affairs Office. Robert Seyller of the Missouri National Guard Public Affairs Office also contributed to this report.)

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