HomeNewsArticle Display

Guard Dike Patrolling New Job for Some, Old Hat for Others

FARGO, N.D. -- Staff Sgt. Steven Kennedy has lived in West Virginia, Georgia and Nevada, but it wasn't until he moved to North Dakota that he got to see his first flood.

And it wasn't long after he arrived that he was involved in his first flood fight.

Kennedy, an Airman with the North Dakota National Guard's 219th Security Forces Squadron in Minot, N.D., moved his family from Nevada less than a year ago in search of a stable job and a better life for his wife and two daughters.

This week, he is on flood duty in Fargo working as a dike patroller on the emergency dikes that are containing the swollen Red River.

He's gotten a quick education from more seasoned vets on the differences between a "crack" and a "leak" and a "breach." There is a difference, he assures.

"It's a new experience for me; I've had a lot to learn," Kennedy said. "I thought it would be simple, but it's turned out to be a lot more complex and diverse than I expected."

Kennedy was born in Clarksburg, W. Va., and grew up in Warner Robins, Ga. He spent some time in the Air Force Reserves at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, before moving on to the Nevada Air National Guard and Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas.

He worked as a civilian at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Spring, Nev., but job insecurities spurred him to seek an Active Guard and Reserve, or AGR, position and a more promising life for his family in Minot, N.D.

None of his previous homes had any issues with flooding, he said.

Kennedy said he knows the history of flooding in the Red River Valley but it's another thing to see the devastation up close and personal.

"When you're walking, you see kids' swing sets, sheds and gazebos all under water," he said. "You can obviously tell that something's not right and it's not supposed to be that way."

Kennedy is among nearly 500 North Dakota National Guard Airmen and Soldiers who are on flood-response duty in the state. Most of the Guard personnel are in eastern North Dakota in and around Fargo.

There are about 85 Guardsmen in Fargo performing 24/7 dike patrols on 21 sections of emergency levees along the Red River. Other missions are to run traffic control points and to participate in quick reaction force teams, which are on standby until they are needed to react on a moment's notice.

Airman 1st Class Kathleen Stenger, with the 219th Security Forces in Minot, also is on her first year of flood duty. She joined the Guard a year ago.

"It's fun, I guess, but you kind of feel sorry for the people whose homes are affected," Stenger said. "It makes you want to help then even more and do what you can."

The dike patrollers work in two-person teams on 12-hour shifts. Stenger and her patrolling partner, Erik Hoff, with the 119th Wing in Fargo, take the day shift.

Hoff, a native of Detroit Lakes, Minn., has volunteered to fight floods in Fargo for three years in a row now. He's putting the knowledge he's used in past years to good use.

On Saturday morning, about three hours into their shift, Hoff and Stenger spotted a leak forming in the sandbag dike in one of the backyards they were patrolling. They immediately notified the proper authorities with the city and the leak was quickly stopped.

"To me, the nice thing about living up in this part of the country is that everyone helps everyone else out," Hoff said. "Instead of getting agitated, everyone works together to build a real sense of community.

"It's neighbors helping neighbors, that's what keeps bringing me back."

Hoff and Stenger patrol a huge section in south Fargo, from the west side of the Fargo Country Club down to 32nd Avenue South and then down River Drive to 52nd Avenue South.

Stenger, a native of Dent, Minn., said it takes them about three hours to walk down and back to their starting point.

She said she's in the flood fight for the long haul.

"How ever long they need me, I'll be here," she said.

Master Sgt. Luke Gardiner, from Bismarck, N.D., is an area supervisor for nine dike-patrolling and traffic-control teams on the south side of Fargo. His job is to make sure the teams have all the equipment they need to do their jobs. He also ensures that they are getting adequate breaks, food and something to drink.

Gardiner was involved in the 2009 flood fight in Fargo and he works as a civilian police officer in Fargo, experiences that he uses in his supervisory role out on the dike lines.

During a 12-hour shift, Gardiner said he logs about 250 miles, hitting all of the points in his sector and making sure his workers are well cared for.

"They are all really awesome people," Gardiner said. "They don't complain even though it's a long, drawn out shift and can get kind of boring. No one gripes at all; that's what is really cool."

Kennedy, the new North Dakotan and flood-fighting novice, is one of those dedicated non-complainers that Gardiner takes care of.

Kennedy said he has good reason to be serving his new home state on flood duty.

"I left Las Vegas looking for a better life for my family in North Dakota, a better all around environment and a better education system for my kids," he said. "For me, this is my chance to give back to North Dakota for all that is has given me."

USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.