Hoosier Guardsmen deal with Ike in Northwest Indiana
September 18, 2008
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Army News Service, Sep. 18, 2008) -- By Sunday afternoon, the remnants of Hurricane Ike had dumped more than 10 inches of rain on northwestern Indiana, causing lakes and tributaries from Lake Michigan to swell beyond capacity. As a result, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security called the National Guard.
During Operation Indiana Ike, more than 150 Guard Soldiers helped the hurricane-ravaged areas with security patrols, search and rescue missions, and filling and placing sandbags.
"Stuff like this is pretty much why I joined the National Guard. It's helping people out in their time of need. I've been to Iraq, and I thought I had done my duty there, but it's assignments like this that are really important to me," said Sgt. Travis Hackett with the 738th Medical Company headquartered in Monticello, Ind.
Lake, Porter, Laporte, Newton, St. Joseph, Benton and Stark counties were hit hard as was the Munster community, west of the Gary armory. Flood waters had breached the banks of the Little Calumet River that runs through the middle of the town and soon engulfed the entire community with three to four feet of water.
The high waters soon flooded the lower floors of the Munster Med-Inn, a five story nursing home, shutting down power and life support to the entire complex and forcing the evacuation of more than 150 patients to other hospitals in dry areas.
"We have to get all of these people out of this flooded building and get them to higher ground. The patients are pretty upset that they have to go through all of this, but they are relieved to see us here, pitching in with the local responders and getting the job done. That's what we're here for," said 1st Sgt. Steven Staley, the top enlisted Soldier with Forward Support Company, 113th Engineer Battalion. Staley was in charge of the Guardsmen carrying residents out of the flooded building.
The medical facility staff praised the efforts of Indiana Guard Soldiers and fire department personnel, and other emergency responders who helped with the evacuation.
"These Soldiers have been working their tails off for the last six hours and into the night, taking residents down each floor. We have all been a team today and it's been wonderful, " said Kathy Riley, a licensed nurse practitioner at Munster Med-Inn. "We were so glad to see the uniforms roll in because I was starting to get scared!"
With no electricity to power the elevators, the residents were carefully carried, one-by-one, down the dimly lit emergency exit stairwells to waiting military vehicles and civilian ambulances.
Staff Sgt. Jerrod Martin, Detachment 18, Recruiting and Retention, made several trips up and down the dark, five-story stairwell during the evacuation.
"This is definitely the best thing the National Guard could have done. We are a community-based organization, and it's a reminder that we still have a state mission to do," said Martin. In addition to Martin, 12 more Indiana Army National Guard recruiters helped with the flood relief in northern Indiana.
Bob Young, Laporte County Highway Department superintendent, also praised the Indiana National Guard who showed up in his county with a high-speed sandbagging machine.
"The Guard is very instrumental in our efforts here. Before (they) showed up, we were just using shovels and it was very time-consuming," Young said. "But, with that four-station sandbagging machine (they) brought, and (their) knowledgeable Soldiers manning the controls, we can make 10 times as many bags and be way ahead of the game."
Other units assisting in Operation Indiana Ike with flood relief were Joint Force Headquarters, 1638th Transportation Company, 190th Transportation Company, 638th Aviation Support Battalion and Company B, 2nd Battalion, 151st Infantry.
(Sgt. Michael B. Krieg writes for the Indiana National Guard public affairs office)