By American Forces Press ServiceMay 10, 2007
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 10, 2007) - While President Bush toured the site of a deadly tornado in Kansas yesterday, the National Guard continued to demonstrate its readiness in response to natural disasters from coast to coast.
In Missouri, more than 100 National Guards members have assisted in flood-response efforts. About 40 Soldiers worked overnight to protect a water plant in the town of Craig from rising waters. An additional 60 Soldiers are mustering in the towns of Lexington and Richmond to form a quick-reaction force to respond to any communities in need. These mobilizations are a result of an executive order signed by Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt on May 7 in preparation for the storms.
"As always, these Soldiers are anxious to help their neighbors through this crisis," said Maj. Gen. King Sidwell, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard.
In South Dakota, 47 Soldiers are on state active duty in support of local emergency management agencies in ongoing flood-relief efforts in eastern parts of the state.
"The community knows the Guard is there to help," said Maj. Bruce Carter, commander for Task Force 2-147, with headquarters in Watertown, S.D.
South Dakota Guardsmen hauled non-military generators and water pumps to relieve pressure on local water-treatment plants in the towns of Groton and Warner, placed about 700 sandbags to save a resident's home in Redfield, and built a 1,000-foot-long wall to protect lift-stations, which pump waste water to treatment plants, and electrical substations in Aberdeen.
At the peak, Maj. Carter said, 75 Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 147th Field Artillery; the 665th Maintenance Company; and the 740th Transportation Company were involved in the relief effort.
"Guardsmen have left their own homes that were being flooded to help others," said Master Sgt. Todd Rose, noncommissioned officer in charge of Task Force 2-147. "This shows the quality of the South Dakota National Guard. They put the needs of the community before their own."
In Florida, 50 National Guardsmen used two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to fight a fire that has ravaged thousands of acres in three central Florida counties. One of the aircraft, dubbed a "Fire Hawk," features a 1,000-gallon tank attached to the belly of the aircraft, which can drop water over a specific target or spread water throughout a larger area. The other Black Hawk assigned to the mission is equipped with a large bucket that can drop more than 600 gallons of water to douse flames.
The two flight crews from Company C, 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation, of Brooksville, Fla., are based at Flagler County Airport, in Palm Coast, the site of the largest fire. As of yesterday, the crews had flown 126 sorties and dropped about 101,240 gallons of water.
"With these helicopters, we can put more water on the fire," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chris Tenaro, a pilot with the 244th.
The helicopters not only help with fire control, but also provide a quick means of assisting in an emergency, officials said. With such an extensive fire, helicopters can often reach a problem area or assist firefighters on the ground faster than any other mode of transportation.
In California, the National Guard has not been requested to help fight a rapidly moving wildfire in the Griffith Park area near the Los Angeles Zoo. However, the state's Joint Force Headquarters continues to monitor the situation.
(Compiled from state National Guard news releases. Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke contributed to this article.)