Indiana Guard Responds to Regional Flooding

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Chris Jennings
Special to American Forces Press Service

TERRE HAUTE, Ind., June 9, 2008 - As members of the Air National Guard's 181st Intelligence Wing and the Army National Guard's 519th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion made their way toward Hulman Field here, they had an idea what their mission was going to be during June's drill weekend.

More than six inches of rain dumped into the Wabash Valley on the evening of June 6 and well into the morning of June 7, stranding motorists and pouring storm water into local residents' homes.

When the call for assistance came in, the Guard was ready to begin sandbag operations.

"There were several soldiers and airmen who made it in only to find out their homes were being flooded," said Air Force Maj. Jim Jensen, public affairs officer for 181st Intelligence Wing. "This is a disaster that is affecting us all, but we have a mission to support. Some stayed here to continue filling sand bags for others while their own homes were flooding. That says a lot about Indiana Guardsmen and how much they care about the community."

As of yesterday, more than 900 soldiers and airmen from across the state had been activated to fight the floods in southern Indiana.

When the governor of Indiana declared a state of emergency, drill weekend became a constant effort to lend a hand to a community in need. Sand bag operations began on base as local television crews were reporting the extent of the damage. Reports of families' and friends' homes being flooded trickled in throughout the morning.

Less than a mile from the base entrance, State Road 42 had collapsed under the weight of rushing flood waters. Airmen and soldiers on base could not see the devastation, but reports from other sources became enough to motivate them throughout the night.

"We filled more than 12,000 sand bags in 24 hours," said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Anne Rice, who was leading the bagging efforts on base. "Even though many have been here throughout the night, our attitudes have been very positive. It's good to see the camaraderie within. We've got them ready to go wherever they are needed."

The two units, along with 138th Quartermaster Company of Brazil, Ind., offered support in the late evening of June 7, as they placed sand bags in low-lying areas surrounding Terre Haute Regional Hospital.

Thompson ditch in Terre Haute was overflowing in front of the hospital as the flood waters rushed into Rea Park and surrounding areas. Across the street, more than 50 Air and Army Guard personnel focused their attention on the main utility facilities supporting the hospital.

"We provided sand bags around their operational and back-up facilities," said Army Lt. Col. Kevin Vedder, commander of 519th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. "This was a successful joint operation, and everyone has been positive and motivated."

The Indiana Guard has sand bag machines prepositioned in Vincennes, Linton, Elnora and Terre Haute. About 200 soldiers from 38th Infantry Division have been moved to Elnora to assist with sandbagging operations.

Soldiers and airmen of the Indiana National Guard also opened armories in Martinsville, Greencastle, Brazil, Terre Haute, Bloomington and Danville to support local responders in their operations over the weekend.

"This is a situation where a community is in need of our support," Jensen said. "We are the Guard. Air and Army, it is our duty to support the needs of state agencies and provide our assets to the relief effort in any way we can."

Indiana National Guardsmen are providing drinking water in Hope, Saint Bernice, Paragon, Nineveh, Hymara and Columbus, Ind., and search-and-rescue and security operations in Bartholomew County. Guardsmen worked with local and state agencies to assist in the evacuation of more than 100 patients from the Columbus Regional Hospital.

Yesterday, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the Indiana Army National Guard assisted the American Red Cross with the delivery of food to Worthington, Ind., a city that has been cut off by flood waters.

"We will continue to work to support our citizens in their time of need," said Army Brig. Gen. Margaret Washburn, of the Indiana National Guard. "Our soldiers and airmen will work tirelessly to support our local responders and communities throughout the flooding in southern Indiana."

(Air Force Staff Sgt. Chris Jennings serves in the 181st Intelligence Wing Public Affairs Office.)

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