National Guard May 2011 : Page 46
STATE ROUNDUP Spring Ritual Melting snow once again brings swollen rivers to North Dakota and a National Guard response to protect lives and property T HAS BECOME a rite of spring as much as the ﬁrst robin or the ﬁnal snowman. When April arrives, the North Da-kota National Guard goes on ﬂood duty. As of mid-April, nearly 550 air-men and soldiers were battling ﬂoods from multiple rivers in several cities and small towns. They had helped a Korean War veteran and the reigning Miss Rodeo North Dakota save their homes from approaching water. And they showed I visitors from Ghana, the state’s State Partnership Program partner, how emergency operations work on Ameri-ca’s northern Great Plains. They delivered a 1,000-pound generator to a struggling water pump station. They ﬁlled and placed more sandbags than stars in the sky. And they did a thousand other things as melting snow and spring rains conspired in this annual ritual. “I pretty much always ﬁnd myself onto the volunteer list,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Carlson, a member of 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery (1-188th). Nothing about a ﬂood is ordinary, but the North Dakota Guard has trained for this possibility and knows how to deal with rising water. Its joint operations center is located at Fraine Barracks in Bismarck and controls two ground task forces orga-nized by region and one aviation task force. Flood duty began April 5 with Guardsmen either standing by or keeping watch on river levels. “This is nothing new for some of us,” said Senior Master Sgt. Rich Shyp-kowski, a member of the 119th Secu-rity Forces Squadron. Over the next few days, Guardsmen helped in every way possible. When water threatened a farm near west of Fargo, a “heavy” quick reaction force was called. Soldiers from Detachment 2, 815th Engineer Company, arrived with 400 sandbags in a matter of min-utes, plowing through two feet of wa-ter in a dump truck to get there. They quickly built a two-foot dike 46 | Na tional Guard
Melting snow once again brings swollen rivers to North Dakota and a National Guard response to protect lives and property
IT HAS BECOME a rite of spring as much as the first robin or the final snowman. When April arrives, the North Dakota National Guard goes on flood duty. As of mid-April, nearly 550 airmen and soldiers were battling floods from multiple rivers in several cities and small towns.
They had helped a Korean War veteran and the reigning Miss Rodeo North Dakota save their homes from approaching water. And they showed visitors from Ghana, the state's State Partnership Program partner, how emergency operations work on America's northern Great Plains.
They delivered a 1,000-pound generator to a struggling water pump station. They filled and placed more sandbags than stars in the sky.
And they did a thousand other things as melting snow and spring rains conspired in this annual ritual.
"I pretty much always find myself onto the volunteer list," said Staff Sgt. Eric Carlson, a member of 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery (1-188th).
Nothing about a flood is ordinary, but the North Dakota Guard has trained for this possibility and knows how to deal with rising water.
Its joint operations center is located at Fraine Barracks in Bismarck and controls two ground task forces organized by region and one aviation task force.
Flood duty began April 5 with Guardsmen either standing by or keeping watch on river levels.
"This is nothing new for some of us," said Senior Master Sgt. Rich Shypkowski, a member of the 119th Security Forces Squadron.
Over the next few days, Guardsmen helped in every way possible. When water threatened a farm near west of Fargo, a "heavy" quick reaction force was called. Soldiers from Detachment 2, 815th Engineer Company, arrived with 400 sandbags in a matter of minutes, plowing through two feet of water in a dump truck to get there.
They quickly built a two-foot dike around the farmhouse and strengthened the dike that surrounded the farm.
"It was good for my guys to get out and help," said Sgt. Mike Strom, who was in charge of the soldiers. "We are here for a reason and it's good to be out helping our community and making a difference."
When retired Korean War veteran Harlan Smeby thought his farmhouse was threatened, he, too, called on the Guard. A team of soldiers and airmen arrived soon after.
"They were here so fast they surprised me," said Smeby.
"Basically, we're throwing up a sandbag wall to save this house," said Airman 1st Class Jake Dipple, a member of the 119th Wing, as he tossed 20-pound sandbags down the line to build a three-foot dike.
Guardsmen helped out the family of a rodeo queen on one assignment. Shannon and Greg Stanke are parents of Sam Stanke, the reigning Miss Rodeo North Dakota.
"Wow, I got a lump in my throat when they were driving up," said Shannon Stanke.
She said the water showed up faster than usual this year. As she talked, the family's nine horses found a bit of high ground and huddled together near a water-logged barn.
Staff Sgt. Shane Skager said that most of the soldiers who responded to the Stanke farm only recently arrived in the area for flood duty.
"This is great to have an opportunity to do this," he said. "Everyone was really anxious and excited to get out here to help out."
The flood proved a great opportunity, too, for two visitors from Ghana. Col. Isaac Mensah Tetteh, the director of land operations at the General Headquarters for the Ghana army, and Kofi Portuphy, the national coordinator for the national Disaster Management Agency, were making a scheduled visit.
Their country, too, is prone to flooding, so they had a chance to see how North Dakota Guardsmen handle such emergencies.
"The day we were landing in Bismarck, we saw a lot from the air. And what we have seen [in Fargo] really goes a long way to tell us a lot," Tetteh said.
Sgt. Jeffrey Craik, another member of the 1-188th, was closer to home. He was one of the soldiers patrolling dikes in the town of Drayton, near his hometown of St. Thomas.
"Having grown up around here, playing basketball around here and having friends here," he said, "it's just great to be able to help out my home area."
Also patrolling dikes, but in Valley City, was Spc. Donovan Dobler of Company A, 231st Brigade Support Battalion. It was his first time on flood duty.
"I joined to help the people, but mostly joined for family," he said. "The rest of my family's been in the Guard. They've been flood-fighting, so I figured I better join, too."
North Dakota was not the only state battling the spring thaw. Its neighbor to the east, Minnesota, was dealing with similar flooding last month.
At the direction of Gov. Mark Dayton's executive order, 200 Guardsmen were activated for flood duty in western Minnesota. Soldiers conducted levee patrols, monitored water pumps and secured road blocks in the communities of Moorhead, Oakport and Georgetown, Minn.
–Compiled from North Dakota National Guard reports
Deployed Loadmaster Meets His First Born Via the Internet
"I wish I could be there to hold her," Tech. Sgt. Ryne Regan said to his wife after witnessing the birth of the couple's first child through his laptop April 9.
Heard in the delivery room at the Women's and Babies Hospital in Lancaster, Pa., these eight words from the Delaware Air National Guardsman deployed thousands of miles away in Afghanistan brought the staff to tears.
"Just before Sarah arrived, I actually lost the Internet signal and had to scramble to get the camera back up," he said.
After 30 hours of encouraging his wife the loadmaster assigned to 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron was finally rewarded with the first cries of Sarah Grace Regan, a blue-eyed, 8-pound, 3-ounce baby girl.
Regan received word he was selected for his eighth deployment about a year ago, not long before he learned his wife, Toshia, was pregnant with their first child.
Despite the unfortunate intersection of events, the couple went on with life as usual. Ryne continued his civilian job and Toshia went to doctor's appointments.
But a few weeks ago, when Ryne started packing, life turned from excitement to anxiety.
"Initially we were concerned about her having a great support system around her while I was gone," he said. "We had daily conversations about it, but when it was time to board the plane, the thought changed to, heaven forbid on the day she came, I would be on a mission, not in front of a computer and miss it."
The expectant father's worries were answered by his extended Air Force family.
"My squadron offered to do everything they could to get me in front of a computer when it came time, and they did," he explained. "They took me off the flying schedule, helped me get an Internet connection and the time to be there for my wife."
–By Master Sgt. Michael Voss
Troops Sweep Afghan Valley, Establish Joint Security Center
An Iowa Army National Guard unit handled the largest air-assault operation conducted by the 101st Airborne Division in its yearlong deployment to Afghanistan.
Operation Bullwhip began March 25 when members of 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry (1-133rd), part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, were inserted by air into the southern portion of Galuch Valley in eastern Afghanistan.
The main body of troops, which consisted of additional Iowa Guardsmen from the brigade and French soldiers, entered the northern end of the valley early the next morning and began clearing operations.
They were assisted by two platoons from companies A and D of the 1-133rd and a company from the Afghan National Army.
"The purpose of Bullwhip was to get a foothold in the Galuch area, to get the government in there to establish a new district center and really get the government and people connected," said Lt. Col. Steve Kremer, the 1-133rd commander.
Laghman province Gov. Mohammed Iqbal Azizi said that before the mission, "the people there had been deprived of the rights of education, health and all services of life by the insurgency."
Kremer said the mission was also the first step in providing infrastructure to the valley. "The underlying issue was also running a set of power lines through the Galuch Valley," he said. "These lines will provide electricity and power to more than 70,000 households throughout the area."
The enemy offered no physical resistance. Azizi had told the people the government would be returning and leaflets dropped before the operation warned that the troops would be coming, which was enough for the insurgency to vanish.
"They did not come out of the woodwork and fight us, which allowed us to engage the population and conduct shuras [meetings] to prep them for the government and a big shura at the end of the operation," said Kremer.
The operation also netted more than 30 weapons caches, including a slew of weapons, opium stashes, expended munitions for improvised explosive devices, more than a dozen anti-personnel mines and communications equipment.
–By Staff Sgt. Ryan Matson
Heading South: Airlift Wing Begins Coronet Oak Mission
The 123rd Airlift Wing has temporarily shifted some of its operations from Louisville, Ky., to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to support a longstanding mission in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility.
About 50 Kentucky Air National Guardsmen deployed in two C-130 Hercules cargo planes to the Caribbean island last month for Operation Coronet Oak, a mission that provides airlift for U.S. military and government operations across the Caribbean and Central and South America.
"We'll be supporting airlift for Southern Command wherever they need it," said Lt. Col. Jude Beyerle, a navigator in the wing's 165th Airlift Squadron and the mission commander, before deploying.
"The primary mission is to provide a C-130 and aircrew on alert 24 hours a day for whatever kind of contingency might come up, whether that be a medical evacuation, humanitarian assistance or hurricane relief. But we'll also fly regular resupply and troop-transport missions around the region."
The deployed airmen comprise the first rotation of nearly 300 members of the 123rd who will support Coronet Oak this year. Five more rotations will follow through Sept. 17, when the wing's role is scheduled to be handed off to another unit, said Lt. Col. Barry Gorter, the commander of the 123rd Operations Group.
Coronet Oak began in Panama in 1977 and is supported entirely by Air Guard and Reserve assets.
The Kentucky Air Guard began flying the mission in the 1990s after the wing converted from RF-4C reconnaissance aircraft to the C-130, Gorter said.
"Past missions have varied from something as routine as rotating personnel out of the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to more involved taskings, like a 10-day mission to Santiago, Chile, to provide assistance following an earthquake there," he said. "Much of the flying is done in the mountainous terrain of South America, requiring a unique skill set from our aircrew members."
Coronet Oak is the 123rd's second major mission in six months. Members of the wing completed a deployment to Afghanistan in January.
–By Tech. Sgt. Daniel Clare
Youth ChalleNGe Program Helps Second Generation
Sgt. 1st Class Christina Batiste says her stepson, Gregory Batiste Jr., had followed in her footsteps–some good, some not so good.
And it was this familiarity with his experience that made her one of the proudest parents at the recent class graduation for the Louisiana Youth ChalleNGe Program's Camp Minden campus.
That's because both are now YCP grads.
Christina Batiste is the classic ChalleNGe story. At 17, she missed school for a month due to an extended illness and fell behind in her studies. She started hanging out with the "wrong crowd" when she noticed a newspaper ad for the program at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, La.
"I begged my mom to let me go," she said. "It was still new and she thought it would be 'too military' for her little girl."
But she insisted and her mom eventually relented. She earned her GED, stayed on at YCP to work as a cadet mentor after graduation and enlisted in the Louisiana Army Guard.
She is still in the Guard, working as an equipment specialist with the 139th Regional Support Group, and works part time as YCP cadre.
Sixteen years after she graduated from YCP, Christina Batiste watched as her 18-year old stepson struggled with some of the same issues she faced as a teen.
Christina Batiste suggested YCP to her son, but she said he is the one who had to do all the work to be successful.
Gregory Batiste learned some life lessons at YCP and has new goals for his life now.
"I know how important it is to understand your surroundings and be careful about the company you choose," he said. "I don't really hang with my friends from before when I was getting in trouble."
–By Sgt. Robin Carpenter
Greening Afghanistan: Guard Farmers Help Reforest Ghazni
The Texas Army National Guard Agribusiness Development Team coordinated the planting of more than 28,000 trees throughout Ghazni province, Afghanistan, in late March to coincide with Nowruz, the Afghan New Year.
The effort will help invigorate the local agricultural industry as well as reforest some barren areas.
Working alongside Sultan Hussein, the Ghazni director of agriculture, irrigation and livestock (DAIL), Ghazni ADT-IV facilitated the purchase of the trees from local nurseries.
Hussein took the lead in the distribution to 14 districts across the province, working through the district subgovernors and agriculture extension agents.
In Qarabagh District, the allocation was 2,000 trees, including red plum, green plum and apricot. Many were planted in the district center and bazaar, while others were given to local farmers to plant at their homes.
In Andar District, the Texas Guard's ADT-IV and the Ghazni DAIL, in conjunction with the Task Force Ramrod civil affairs team, purchased and planted 650 apple trees, 650 apricot trees and 200 almond trees at one large farm.
It was once a profitable farm that produced apples, apricots and almonds, but it has fallen on hard times due to a malfunctioning well. Task Force Ramrod helped with the construction of a new well, which will en-able the farm to be functional again.
"The orchard at Chardewahl represents what's left of the huge government farm that spread over much of Andar and Giro districts in Ghazni province," said Maj. Michael Tucker, who is with Task Force Ramrod civil affairs.
"The 60 government employees who work at the orchard lacked motivation and rarely worked, but the tree planting and the well that was drilled to support the trees have brought new life to the employees," he said. "They worked very hard to plant the trees and it has renewed their purpose."
–By 2nd Lt. Laura Childs
Air Guard Establishes Unique Customs Inspection Program
Eighteen members of the 167th Airlift Wing are now certified Military Customs Inspectors.
After two and a half years of training and planning, the 167th has established the Domestic Military Customs Inspection (MCI) Program.
The new program will save time as the wing can now process aircraft with military passengers through its own facilities at Shepherd Field near Martinsburg, W.Va.
Tech Sgt. Ben Dillard, a passenger service supervisor for the 167th Small Air Terminal, has been instrumental in putting the program together at the unit.
Dillard said the late Sen. Robert Byrd wanted the capabilities at Shepherd Field.
"Senator Byrd desired for us to be able to clear customs at the 167th Airlift Wing, adding value to the unit and possibly open the door for an inland port to be established to bring more business to the [West Virginia] panhandle," he said.
The MCIs are authorized to inspect military flights originating from overseas as long as all on board are military personnel.
Civilians can only be cleared by federal Customs and Border Patrol agents. Previously, flights returning from overseas without cargo would be directed to a U.S. port of entry such as Bangor, Maine, or Dover, Del., to clear customs.
Col. Richard Robichaud, the commander of the wing's operations group, estimates that "this will shave at least three hours on a trip as well as save the taxpayers on average about $30,000 in flying hour costs."
Besides doing customs inspections, they also act as agriculture inspectors to prevent the introduction of foreign plant and animal diseases, parasites and other foreign pests into the country.
"All trash that has come in contact with dairy, meats or other overseas food products must be tightly sealed in a yellow leak-proof bag," Dillard said.
–By Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle
Read the full article at http://www.nationalguardmagazine.com/article/State+Roundup/716642/68628/article.html.