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Flood Feature: N.D. Guard Uses Giant Sandbags to Stem Breach in Dike System at Oak Grove School

North Dakota National Guardsmen work on flood duty to combat the rising Red River in Fargo, North Dakota.  Over 3,000 soldiers and airmen from North Dakota and surrounding states work together to keep the state safe.

Black Hawk helicopter carrys massive one-ton sandbag en route to placement. North Dakota National Guardsmen work on flood duty to combat the rising Red River in Fargo, North Dakota. Over 3,000 soldiers and airmen from North Dakota and surrounding states work together to keep the state safe.

Fargo, ND -- The North Dakota National Guard and city officials called on big time air support Sunday to stem the tide of a major breach in the this city's flood protection system.

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the North Dakota National Guard carried massive reinforced plastic bags of sand and clay dirt - one-ton sandbags - to the site of Fargo's Oak Grove Lutheran School and lowered them to bolster the weakening levee there.

Only hours earlier, while most of the city slept, a leak in the dike was discovered at Oak Grove, and two of the school's five buildings had taken water. About 60 members of the National Guard's Quick Reaction Force and emergency crews from the city responded to the breach, ensuring that floodwater from the already swollen Red River didn't harm more of the city.

After the breach was stabilized, the giant sandbags were airlifted using thick cables and hoists that were suspended from the choppers. Eleven bags, from one of three prepositioned locations in Fargo, were transferred to the Oak Grove site. The reinforced plastic material used for the giant sandbags typically are for holding agricultural products, such as soybeans, as they are lifted onto railcars or semi-trailer trucks.

Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard, said the giant sandbags are another example of the Guard and the city teaming together with "creative and innovative" flood-fighting tools. "We have to use these techniques when and where we can," Sprynczynatyk said. "Sometimes, we have to use whatever means we have available to us."

City leaders commended the Guard and emergency crews for their response to the breach, quick action that surely contained the damage, they said.

At any given time, about 160 citizen-Soldiers and citizen-Airmen from the Guard are taking part in walking patrols along Fargo's miles of Red River dike lines. They patrol in two-member teams, and on average, are on 20-minute rounds along their sectors.

The dike patrols, along with having several strategically positioned Guard QRF teams on the dike lines, played a role in the effective response that took place in the Oak Grove area.

Though flood fighting is not necessarily a specialty of the Guard, Sprynczynatyk said the innovative and creative nature of North Dakota's Soldiers and Airmen make it work. "You can't ever really train for something like this," Sprynczynatyk said. "The nice thing about the National Guard is that we have a multitude of skills, talents and tools that we bring to the table. "It works because we have dedicated, loyal and very patriotic people doing this work."

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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. More than 1,900 National Guardsmen have been mobilized for current flood fighting missions all across North Dakota - another 1,100 Guardsmen remain available to provide support for state and national emergencies and homeland defense.

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