By By Staff Sgt. Amy Wieser WillsonMarch 23, 2010
HARWOOD, N.D. - At 84 years old, Mili Sherman has spent nearly half of her life in her home just west of Harwood. It sits above the swollen Sheyenne River, just out of the water's reach. The road out, however, is a different story.
Floodwaters rush quickly across the gravel road that runs out to the highway, making it dangerous for any vehicle to attempt to pass through.
"I didn't want to try to drive my car through," Sherman said.
"Nobody is trying to drive through there," Cass County Chief Deputy Sheriff Jim Thoreson assured her.
He had accompanied the North Dakota National Guard's evacuation team in to help Sherman leave.
Capt. Grant Larson, a North Dakota National Guard liaison officer working at the Cass County Emergency Operations Center, said Thoreson had contacted him "and said that he knew Mili for many years and that her kids were concerned because she was out there by herself and 84 (years old). They asked if we'd be able to provide a high-profile, high-wheeled vehicle. They were worried about wash out, so I said, yes, I can definitely get a vehicle, just let me find the best vehicle."
Larson then contacted the Guard's quick response force evacuation team. They're based out of Olivet Lutheran Church and have a bevy of high-wheeled vehicles that can move into areas that may be dangerous for smaller vehicles due to water levels and potentially washed out roads.
Given Sherman's age, the team decided to send a 2.5-ton truck, which would be easier to get in and out of than some of the Guard's other large vehicles.
Sgt. Brian T. Steckler helped coordinate the team's response, pulling out waders for Pfc. Richard P. Olson, of Fargo, who volunteered to walk in front of the truck and guide it in.
"You've got to put a life vest on, too, in case we hit a big hole. Nobody has been across in a while," Steckler, of Buffalo, N.D., told Olson before they moved in.
Olson walked through without a problem and the Guard's cargo truck carrying Thoreson and additional Soldiers followed through the water and down the road to Sherman's house.
Thoreson greeted Sherman at the door and helped her get her belongings. Then the Guardsmen loaded her things into the back of the truck, helped Sherman up a ladder and into the back, and headed slowly out through the water. From there, Thoreson transported her to a family's house.
Sherman expressed thanks for the assistance, saying her father and brother had both served proudly in the military.
"It's one of these things where, after last year, the Cass County Sheriff's Department knows what type of response the QRFs could provide. Evacuation is just one of the things we can use these teams to do," Larson said.
Due to less severe flooding than 2009, this was the first evacuation the Guard's team has had to do this year.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,500 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, about 800 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas. With a total force of about 4,400 Soldiers and Airmen, sufficient forces remain in the state for emergency response and homeland defense.
High-resolution photos to accompany this release can be viewed and downloaded at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ndguard. Navigate to the photo set titled "Harwood Evacuation."
Video to accompany this release can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch'v=BFZDo3tYqFY.