Giving it the Ol' College Try
By Spc. Joshua Dodds, NDNG Public Affairs
/ Published April 20, 2009
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Across North Dakota, college students are attending classes and studying hard, preparing for graduation, or just finishing another year.
However, major spring floods throughout most of the state have forced many college students in the North Dakota National Guard to substitute textbooks and lecture halls for sandbags and dike lines.
About 2,400 Guard Soldiers and Airmen were activated or volunteered to help the citizens of North Dakota in the statewide flood fight, and hundreds of them are enrolled in area colleges.
Schools across the state and region have been supportive of student-Soldiers and student-Airmen by allowing them to take part in the Guard's flood-fighting mission.
"I volunteered on March 24 and then my unit was activated on March 27," said Spc. Aimee L. Page, a member of 1-188th Air Defense Artillery, headquartered in Grand Forks, and a student at University of North Dakota. "I started sandbagging and then was on a QRF (quick reaction force) in Fargo."
Page, a native of Cavalier, N.D., and an economics major, is working as an intelligence analyst at the Grand Forks Armed Forces Reserve, the command center for flood operations in northeastern North Dakota.
Page finds time during her 12-hour shifts to squeeze in some reading or studying for tests. She has worked closely with her instructors at UND, and her Guard leaders have offered her time off to take tests that she otherwise would have missed.
"My professors have been incredibly understanding as well as my chain of command in the Guard," Page said.
Her professors have not been surprised, because they are accustomed to student-Guardsmen being activated or deployed, she said.
Peter Johnson, executive associate vice president for university relations at UND, said that more than 125 UND students are involved in the National Guard.
"They, along with other members of the Guard, were the backbone in helping a number of North Dakota communities cope with rising waters," Johnson said.
North Dakota State University in Fargo is another big contributor of student-Soldiers and student-Airmen to the North Dakota flood fight. About 160 NDSU students wear the Guard uniform.
"We are very proud to have many of these men and women as our students at NDSU," said Prakash Mathew, vice president for student affairs at NDSU.
"(The university) does a number of things to support and assist our Guard Soldiers who are called to duty."
Former North Dakota National Guard Adjutant General Keith D. Bjerke is a high-ranking official on NDSU's administration.
"I have not been to a lecture since before spring break, but I have been in contact with all my professors and they are trying to work with me to give extensions for papers," said Spc. Danielle Y. Johnson, also of the 1-188th ADA, and a political science major at NDSU.
"Instead of handing in a hard copy of my paper or test, they will let me e-mail it to them," she added.
Difficulties can arise for student-Guardsmen on long-term activation orders.
They need to work through matters with their professors and Guard leadership together on issues that may transpire.
"The main thing is to keep the line of communications open," Page said.
"Don't assume they know what is going on."
Since the terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 2,800 Soldiers and more than 1,600 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. In recent weeks, nearly 2,000 North Dakota National Guardsmen - with support of about 400 additional Soldiers and Airmen from six other states - have been mobilized for current flood fighting missions all across North Dakota. With a total force of about 4,400 Soldiers and Airmen, we continue to have sufficient forces available to provide emergency response and homeland defense.