09-060 Flood Feature: ‘Morale' Support on the Frontlines

  • Published
  • By Sgt 1st Class David Dodds
  • NDNG Public Affairs

Chaplain (Maj.) Leo Moenkedick is a welcome sight for Soldiers and Airmen working the frontlines of the flood battle here.

Popularly known simply as "Father Leo," Moenkedick (Menk-a-dick) is a frequent visitor to the FargoDome, a central filling point for sandbags destined for the dike lines, to lend moral support to citizen-Soldiers and citizen-Airmen.

They are doing their part to help protect the city of Fargo from the rising Red River and a devastating flood. For his part, Father Leo brings them much-welcomed snacks, refreshments and a relaxed smile to ease the stress.

But even more than the goodies, Father Leo said he wants the Airmen and Soldiers to get something more substantial from his and other chaplains' visits.

"What we're looking for is signs of extreme stress, anger and obvious fatigue, these sorts of things," Moenkedick said. "Basically, we want to make sure that they are being well taken care of."

Food, water and rest - those are his primary concerns for the Soldiers and Airmen he meets, he said.

On Thursday, Moenkedick made his first trek out to Guard worksites along the river, where military personnel and civilians are bolstering emergency sandbag and earthen levees. He said it's a trip that he would like someone from the chaplains' corps to make every day.

"So far, they are doing really well," Moenkedick said. "The rest part of it all depends on who you talk to."

Moenkedick, a chaplain with the North Dakota Air National Guard's 119th Wing in Fargo, said he and his colleagues remind Guard leaders of the importance of proper rest for personnel. Guard leadership has taken that message to heart and has reiterated it, he said.

Moenkedick said that, with all of the Soldiers and Airmen from the North Dakota National Guard who've been deployed to combat zones in recent years, it is important to ensure their stresses aren't exacerbated by a flood fight.

He said soon there will be more chaplain teams set up in Fargo, so that a chaplain and an assistant can make rounds to all Guard worksites in the city at least once a day, while a team remains at headquarters for support there.

Moenkedick has been a chaplain with the 119th since 2000. He currently serves as a priest for churches in three Minnesota communities - Sobieski, Flensburg and Randall.

With so many civilians working alongside Guard personnel during the current flood battle, Moenkedick said it's not unlikely that he would find himself providing comfort, and maybe a snack, to a non-military member of the community.

"Our primary focus is on the military personnel, but we certainly want to take care of everyone out there," he said.
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. Nearly 1,400 National Guardsmen have been mobilized for current flood fighting missions all across North Dakota - another 1,600 Guardsmen remain available to provide support for state and national emergencies and homeland defense.