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09-085 Flood Feature: Guardsmen in a Statewide Flood Fight

BISMARCK, N.D. -- The number of National Guardsmen fighting rising water levels in North Dakota has more than doubled from last week.

More than 1,000 additional members of the North Dakota National Guard were activated Monday, adding to a force of about 900 who were already on active duty. This is about 500 fewer service members than were on duty during the Red River's first crest in Fargo earlier this month.

The Soldiers and Airmen are helping to fight flooding throughout the state by placing sandbags, operating pumps, patrolling dikes and forming quick reaction forces in order to respond to any levee that doesn't hold.

Residents have been grateful for the help. Sgt. 1st Class Freddie Griffin leads a team of about a dozen Soldiers of the 134th Quartermaster Detachment in Pembina, where they have been patrolling the dike system for about a week.

"The people here have been great to us," Griffin said. "They are showing us their appreciation daily."

In Burlington, Soldiers are operating a sandbag site and responding to area flood missions. A QRF already responded to homes affected by Des Lacs River flooding and the team used 18,000 sandbags to build a dike around three separate homes. A team is also in place to serve the Minot area, should the need arise.

Guardsmen are patrolling dikes in many other parts of the state, as well, including Drayton, Jamestown, southeast Grand Forks, Lisbon and Wahpeton. They also are operating pumps at numerous locations, and have additional pumps on standby in areas that may be at risk again, such as Oxbow. They have been improving roads in Grant County, and staging in Fargo and West Fargo to support the surrounding area. In the past week, Guardsmen from these locations have responded to overland flooding west of West Fargo, at Willow Creek, and to provide support at the Absaraka dam. They have branched out to support Casselton, Grand Rapids, Hickson, Kindred and other locations in southeastern North Dakota.

Additional efforts are being focused in Lisbon and Valley City, where Guardsmen are monitoring dikes for leaks, operating pumps and generators, and providing traffic control points. The Guard brought additional heavy equipment to both cities, where it will be used if an evacuation becomes necessary.

In Valley City, the Guard continues to step up efforts, with about 500 Guardsmen currently on site.

Quick reaction forces have responded to leaks and breaches, and a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was on the scene this past weekend to place about 20 one-ton sandbags to reinforce the dike near the 8th Avenue bridge.

The Guard established a secondary operations center in Valley City today to help coordinate flood fighting efforts there.

Spc. Dustin Kirschenmann, Fargo, is a member of the 817th Engineer Company (Sappers), of Jamestown and has been activated for flood duty since March 23. The 817th worked first in Fargo and then moved to Valley City over the weekend to patrol dikes. They are anticipating duty in Jamestown, as well. Kirschenmann helps man the phones in the unit's tactical operations center, receiving dike condition reports.

On Monday, his 45th call was about a major leak at a pump site. Kirschenmann received the report and called the dike contractor, telling them they needed to send dirt trucks out and rebuild the leaky spot.

"We're running so ragged we don't even think about it," he said. "We're just doing what we need to do."

Kirschenmann said the job "can be exciting, that's for sure." "I would rather be bored," he said. "If we were bored, that would mean everything was going well."

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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 support for state and national emergencies and homeland defense.

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