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Minnesota National Guard
Soldiers support Red River flood response

GEORGETOWN, Minn " Soldiers and Airmen of the Minnesota National Guard are accustomed to battling the elements during the course of their normal combat training exercises and missions  But, rather than standing on the frontlines, they were in the midst of providing contingency support to local, state and federal officials engaged in the Red River flood response, here April 8

At the direction of Governor Mark Dayton's executive order, 200 Guard members have been activated for flood duty in western Minnesota  Soldiers are conducting levee patrols, monitoring water pumps and securing road blocks in the communities of Moorhead, Oakport and Georgetown, Minn 

Traci Goble, the Mayor of Georgetown, said that members of the National Guard have been doing regular levee checks adjacent to flooded areas to ensure the safety of the town's residents 

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"They are giving our residents great peace of mind," said Goble  "People can sleep better at night, knowing that the Guard is out watching at night"

As water levels rise, existing levee systems can be stressed to the point of giving out or allowing malevolent leakage  To combat this, and as a precaution related to likely precipitation, Goble said construction crews are working to raise levees by two feet

Members of the Moorhead-based 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry have been conducting foot patrols along the bloated river's newly-carved banks to monitor the performance of the levees and to provide early warning to local officials, should any concerns arise

The Soldier in charge of task force operations on the ground in Georgetown, Staff Sgt Dennis Anderson of Fergus Falls, has been leading patrols in the area, and he has been in constant communication with local, civilian authorities and military officials

"We're working with the Clay County Sheriff's office, Army Corps of Engineers, city officials and local residents to minimize the impact of severe flooding on the people and property in the Valley," said Anderson  "Everything seems to be going smoothly so far"

Anderson said he was impressed with the incredible amount of dirt local crews have been able to move in the last 24 hours alone  According to Anderson, the levees have been reinforced and sandbags were planned for areas that couldn't be reached by large earth-hauling trucks

During the course of their patrols through town, Soldiers have found themselves marching alongside of a quarry-sized hole in the ground   In what used to be the local "field of dreams," crews of construction workers continue to remove massive amounts of dirt and clay, leaving behind a gap in the earth that resembles something closer to a "hole of hope"

The local decommissioned baseball ball field, which still contains a beaming set of flood lights, has offered flood response teams a large open area to remove dirt around the clock  The earth is being transported from the unique borrow pit and used to build up levees in a deliberate move to protect Georgetown and its people 

Anderson, who has been called up for flood duty four times, explained why Georgetown has been affected more than some cities near the border between Minnesota and North Dakota  The community of 125 people lies along the banks of the Buffalo River, less than two miles from the confluence of the Red River of the North

Emergency levees are being built around the entire town, led by the US Army Corps of Engineers  The Corps contracted RJ Zavoral & Sons, Inc, to complete the construction, which began 24-hour operations April 7

Eugene Alm, a Corps quality assurance representative, is in Georgetown serving as the liaison between the contractors and the Corps, as well as listening to concerns from the local citizens

"I'm trying to make sure everything is done right while staying away from the equipment," said Alm, a lock and dam operator from Lock and Dam 10 in Guttenberg, Iowa

The construction crew is moving dump trucks and bulldozers with precision as they build the levees, said Alm, who also fought the 2009 flood While one truck driver unloads dirt, another waits in line to continue the process of protecting the community Pat Vickman, Corps area sub-engineer, said this process will continue until the work is completed, which is expected to happen April 10

Alm said it's all about "helping out the people There are a lot of people that are glad to see us"

Story and photos by Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs Office
8 April, 2011

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