Missouri Guard units providing flood response along Mississippi River
April 22, 2013
By Bill Phelan
CLARKSVILLE, Mo. (Army News Service, April 22, 2013) -- About 100 Missouri National Guard members from units in St. Louis and Hannibal joined dozens of volunteers to work in support of flood relief operations in affected areas.
After more than five inches of rain fell in parts of Missouri last week, Gov. Jay Nixon mobilized the National Guard, April 19, to help protect lives and property from rising flood waters, especially along the Mississippi River.
In addition to the weekend Guard response in Clarksville, about 50 Soldiers were also called April 22, to help with sandbagging operations in Dutchtown, about 150 miles downriver, near Cape Girardeau.
"Our citizen-Soldiers and Airmen are true leaders and that's why I called them up to help with this fight," said Nixon, who toured Clarksville April 20, with Army Maj. Gen. Steve Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard.
"We pick flood-fights where we can win them, and this is certainly a flood-fight we are going to win through a smart emergency management plan and the work of the National Guard and some dedicated volunteers," Nixon said.
"We are always happy to come to the aid of our fellow Missourians," said Danner. "We will work directly with the Department of Public Safety, other state agencies and local authorities to answer this call. We are going to ensure that we strengthen that levee wall and do anything else we can to assist."
Within one hour of being mobilized, Airmen from the St. Louis-based 121st Air Control Squadron, the 131st Civil Engineer Squadron, and Soldiers from the 70th Troop Command, were on their way to Clarksville. There, Guardsmen immediately began to assist with construction of a 1,500 foot sandbag levee protecting the historic city of 442 people.
Soldiers from the Hannibal-based 2175th Military Police Company were also called up to help with the effort.
"Our primary mission is to fill a lot of sandbags," explained Capt. Wesley Dickman, of Columbia, commander of the 2175th. "My troops have been working throughout the night to build up the main levee and the side levees protecting some of the buildings. The effort here is really impressive."
In addition to National Guard members, city officials, area residents, Boy Scouts and even prison inmates worked around the clock to build up the levee wall in anticipation of the Mississippi's expected crest, the afternoon of April 22.
The National Guard response to the flooding was coordinated through "Task Force Bear" headquartered at Jefferson Barracks, in St. Louis County.
The Guard's arrival in Clarksville was a welcome sight to volunteers who had been working on the sandbag levee since April 17.
"With this kind of manpower we can really get things done," said Ray Wagner, of St. Louis, one of numerous AmeriCorps volunteers working on the wall. "We really appreciate the Guard's help because we have several projects that we have not started yet."
"When AmeriCorps arrived on the scene we breathed a huge sigh of relief and when the National Guard arrived we breathed a bigger sigh of relief," added Clarksville Mayor Jo Anne Smiley. "Their arrival has relieved us in so many ways I can't even describe it. This effort would not be successful without them."
Founded in 1817, Clarksville is no stranger to flooding and has adapted an impressive flood management plan that clearly impressed everyone who saw it implemented.
"This town has been here a long time and I expect that when the waters recede, Clarksville, Missouri, will be open for business as usual," Nixon said.
Just as the flood-fight drew to a close in Clarksville, April 22, Soldiers of the Cape Girardeau-based 1140th Engineer Battalion and the 880th Engineer Team, based in Perryville, were called to fight floodwaters in Dutchtown.
"This is one of the reasons we put the uniform on; it's our way of giving back and protecting our community, and we are ready and prepared to help the community and people of Dutchtown," said 1st Sgt. Haskel Rooker, of the 1140th Forward Support Company.
The 121st Air Control Squadron and the 131st Civil Engineer Squadron are subordinate units of the 131st Bomb Wing, headquartered at Whiteman Air Force Base, near Knob Noster.
The 2175th Military Police Company is a subordinate unit of the Columbia-based 175th Military Police Battalion.
The 1140th Engineer Battalion and the 880th Engineer Team are part of the 35th Engineer Brigade, based at Fort Leonard Wood.
The 70th Troop Command is the largest brigade in the Missouri National Guard and is based at historic Jefferson Barracks.