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Guardsmen begin flood duty in Fargo

Fargo, N.D. -- North Dakota National Guard members began 2011 flood duty on April 5 in Fargo as they operated six traffic control points and one resource control point in the southern part of the city. Guardsmen at each station aided trucks loaded with pallets of sandbags and escorted by the Fargo Police Department as they traveled into neighborhoods that will need sandbag dikes constructed. They also controlled regular traffic in and out of those neighborhoods.

"Their job is to let authorized personnel into the area that just have a need to be back here and to keep unauthorized personnel from coming in, causing congestion with sandbag placement, allowing a more efficient process to happen and allowing us to beat the 2011 flood fight and win," said Senior Master Sgt. Rick Shypkowski, a member of the North Dakota Air National Guard's 119th Security Forces Squadron.

He and Master Sgt. Dave Larson are serving as mission supervisors, traveling among the six control points to ensure Guardsmen have their needs met, including protective equipment, food and water.

"What we're doing out here is we're going from traffic control point to traffic control point, and we're checking on our personnel to make sure they have everything they need," Larson said. "We want to make sure it's an efficient process so that the city and the contractors and law enforcement who are trying to get sandbags into these neighborhoods can do so easily," Larson said.

The Guardsmen manning the points are all volunteers, and the Guard still has more than 3,000 Soldiers and Airmen available to respond.

Master Sgt. Erik Clemenson, who was stationed at "Tango 2," the control point on 35th Avenue South off of University Drive, was one of those volunteers working a 12-hour shift today.

"From our location, you'll notice all of the sandbag trucks departing empty. They've already dumped off all of their sandbags. They've entered at Harwood Drive, north of us, at our 'Tango 1' post. We have a TCP (traffic control point) there. ... They all have one-way traffic coming out to depart at our location," he said.

He was involved in the flood fight last year, but had to monitor the situation via news reports in Iraq in 2009.

"So far everybody has been very positive," he said. "We've had a lot of people come through our post with their proper identification ... and always give us a 'thank you for your service and doing what you do.' ... Having their support is really helpful," Clemenson said.

The Guardsmen are expecting to be on site for as long as four days, but know that mission could change at any time based on support requested and weather.

"This is nothing new for some of us," Shypkowski said.

Last year's control points were managed much the same way and even in the same locations, so the Guardsmen are well-experienced in the mission.

Larson emphasized the team effort involved in operations to protect the city from floodwaters.

"Thank you very much to the people who are volunteering. Thank you to the citizens who appreciate us being here, and thanks a lot to the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, as well as ... the citizens of Fargo. For the most part, there were a lot of neighborhoods that were really gracious in past years and I know will be this year as far as volunteering to give food and water to the volunteers as well as to the GIs," he said.
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