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National Guard on duty from coast to coast

by Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau

6/27/2008 - ARLINGTON, Va. (AFPN) -- About 2,300 Air and Army National Guard members remain on duty in the Midwest, down from a peak of more than 5,700, officials reported. Meanwhile, officials in California called for more aircraft to fight the wildfires.

While the number of guardmembers needed on the ground went down, the number of aircraft needed went up. UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters and C-130 Hercules aircraft dropped water and flame retardant while OH-58 Kiowa helicopters and RC-26 Metroliner aircraft flew fire-spotting and reconnaissance missions.

In Missouri, the National Guard was preparing for potential flooding downriver, said Capt. Tamara Spicer, a public affairs officer. The Missouri Guard posted liaison officers to four lower Mississippi River counties in anticipation of flooding, she said.

One levee, near Winfield, Mo., was in such a tenuous position that only vest-clad National Guard members and firefighters were allowed to stack sandbags, reports stated.

"The Missouri National Guard continues to work closely with state and local leaders to ensure we have our citizen Soldiers and Airmen where they are needed to help Missourians," said Maj. Gen. King Sidwell, who is Missouri's adjutant general. "We will continue to support our communities until local officials release the Soldiers and Airmen."

"The National Guard's Joint Operations Center has beefed up its staff to coordinate Guard response as floodwaters covered most of the southern half of the state," said Lt. Col. Tim Donovan, the Wisconsin National Guard's director of public affairs. "Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have conducted evacuations, delivered sandbags, operated traffic control points, performed security missions, completed engineer assessments and flown aerial assessment flights to assist in the state's multi-agency efforts."

Sgt. Jacek Gusciora, who is part of the Illinois National Guard's 341st Military Intelligence Company based in Chicago, has been working sandbag operations along the Sny levee.

"This is the reason we signed up for the National Guard; this is our duty," Sergeant Gusciora said. "We're honored to do it. We've received the training, and now we're doing our mission."

The Midwest flooding mission has seen Guard assistance to civilian authorities in five states since June 7. Troops have concluded flooding operations in Indiana but remain at work in four other states.

While the numbers of troops receded with the water, they are still in the thousands:

-- Illinois: More than 1,100 guardmembers monitored levees as farmland remained at threat from the burgeoning Mississippi. Troops also conducted security patrols in affected communities.

-- Missouri: With three dozen levees remaining at threat, more than 800 guardmembers were on duty providing communications and command and control, monitoring levees, positioning sandbags, assessing damage, removing debris, providing security and distributing fuel.

-- Iowa: 200 troops continued mop-up operations.

-- Wisconsin: 200 troops remained in the field pumping water, supplying power and giving communications and command support in addition to security, debris-removal, road-repair and transportation missions.

Guardmembers are on duty in the U.S. 365-days a year. On June 25 a National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter plucked an injured teen-ager from the side of a Colorado mountain after a car crash. The same day, guardmembers assisted Border Patrol agents in four Southwest Border states, ferried drinking water to residents of several New Mexico towns, supported Louisiana police, provided critical infrastructure protection in Northeast states and California, flew critical air sovereignty missions nationwide and continued Counterdrug operations.

Guardmembers also remained on duty on numerous overseas missions, including in Afghanistan and Iraq.

(Army Sgt. April McLaren of the Illinois National Guard contributed to this article.)

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