By Lt. Col. Keith Moore, Arkansas National Guard Public AffairsMay 13, 2011
KROTZ SPRINGS, La. (Army News Service, May 13, 2011) -- Louisiana National Guardsmen from the 139th Regional Support Group and the 225th Engineer Brigade helped raise a levee to protect 240 homes from potential flooding in Krotz Springs, May 12, 2011.
Raising the levee was necessary to ease the pressure farther down the Mississippi River, said Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.
The Louisiana Guard constructed part of a two-mile long levee which raised a barrier from one to nine feet, adding protection for the St. Landry Parish homes, an electrical substation and a refinery in the Atchafalaya Basin.
Moving quickly after receiving the mission, the Guard, in support of local and state agencies, including the Department of Transportation and Development, responded and began arriving on site Wednesday.
The governor and Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau, adjutant general, toured the site Thursday afternoon to see the construction progress. A long, raised bed of recycled asphalt was in the process of being laid before sand-filled Hesco baskets were placed on top.
"The Guard's doing everything they can," said Jindal to Krotz Springs' residents. "It's a race against time to protect our people's lives first - and property second."
Cooperation across agencies has allowed the work to take place at a rapid pace.
"I can't say enough about the local partnership," said Jindal. "This is something that the mayor and parish officials said, if the Guard and state didn't help them, then they couldn't get this done."
Sgt. William Rickels, project noncommissioned officer in charge for the National Guard engineers, has responded to numerous state missions during his 11 years of service including Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike and the 2008 mission near Morganza to fortify the 'Potato Levee.'
"We are here to support the state as a whole," said Rickels. "Serving gives back to the community. You feel a sense of accomplishment when you sandbag around houses or clear roads so people can get to their things."
While Louisiana Guardsmen have been dealing with flood issues within their state, 70 Arkansas Guard Soldiers from the 142 Fires Brigade were in the southeast part of their state before sunrise May 11, 2011, conducting levee patrol and sandbag missions in Lake Village and Eudora to stave off the cresting Mississippi.
"We're going to be watching for sand boils and any breaches in the levee system in the area," said Maj. David Gibbons, area coordinator for the Guard. "We're also ramping up for any rescue or evacuation operations."
Meanwhile, the state's Air Guard deployed 30 Airmen from the 188th Fighter Wing to deliver and set up the Disaster Relief Bedding System, or DRBS, at McGehee in Desha County.
DRBS supports up to 150 people with housing, shower and toilet facilities, kitchen and self-help laundry machines as well as providing water purification capabilities. The system was last used in January 2009, after an ice storm hit the northern third of the state.
In Payneway in Poinsette County, another 20 Guard Soldiers from the 87th Troop Command's 875th Engineer Battalion were assisting with sandbagging operations as the St. Francis River began to overflow its banks.
Additionally, another 60 Airmen and 260 Soldiers are working state active-duty missions throughout the eastern half of the state. To date, more than 33 missions in response to the flooding have been underway to include security, traffic management, sandbagging, levee patrol and evacuation support.