Relief efforts continue along Ike's path
September 17, 2008
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Sep. 17, 2008) -- About 180 Indiana National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are supporting relief missions during massive flooding in northern Indiana.
Rain began to fall for 48 hours Sept. 11, caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ike as it passed through the Midwest. Ike's leftovers moved through Indiana carrying winds of 50 mph. The 6-8 inches of heavy rain and high winds downed many power lines, reportedly leaving more than 87,000 people without electricity in Indiana.
So far, Guardmembers have evacuated more than 5,000 people there.
Initially, 40 Guardsmen were activated Sept. 14 to assist the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. Commanded by Lt. Col. Paul South, commander of the 113th Engineer Battalion, Indiana Guard personnel have been placing sandbags, providing security, conducting search and rescue missions, and assisting local authorities. They have also provided equipment such as generators, aircraft, sandbag machines, and high-water vehicles.
"The biggest task we have is getting hold of the incident planner at the location and determining their immediate needs. Then we're looking into the near future and setting ourselves up to meet the follow-on needs before it really becomes a need," said South on Wednesday.
The Guardsmen come from several different units such as Joint Forces Headquarters, the 81st Troop Command, the 38th Infantry Division, the 219th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, and the 738th Medical Company.
During the evacuation of the Munster Medical Inn, a nursing facility 30 miles from Chicago, Guardsmen from the 81st Troop Command assisted the local fire department in evacuating 150 people from the five-story building.
The Soldiers assisted wheelchair-bound patients down several flights of stairs during the evacuation.
The Indiana National Guard will continue its search and rescue missions, power generation, sandbagging, and evacuation operations. They are also helping to make the interstate highway passable.
"It's been a good experience for my guys and a good experience for the Guard," said South. "We love doing this stuff, and we're glad we're here. I'd like to see these guys get dry and get home in northwest Indiana."
Further down south, in Texas, efforts to evacuate would-be affected areas prevented Ike from doing as much harm there as it might have. Nevertheless, Army National Guard Soldiers were prepared ahead of time for anything that might happen.
Task Force 52 stood up there to be the go-to military force in case they were needed. The task force consisted of active-duty and reserve-component military members, as well as Department of the Army civilians from U.S. Army North. The task force has already participated in search and rescue operations and stands ready to do more if needed, said Air Force Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., commander of U.S. Northern Command.
"The good news is that the integrated pre-landfall efforts to evacuate the coast and knock on doors have fortunately made the need for large-scale follow-up search and rescue less of a requirement," Renuart said. "[But] as there is ... need for some additional assistance, we have the capacity and we're happy to provide that."
According to Renuart, there has been and may continue to be a need for Task Force 52 units in search-and-rescue missions, as well as high-water, deep-water and fast-water missions.