BISMARCK, N.D., (Army News Service, May 31, 2011) -- In a first-of-its-kind activation, some of the newest members of the North Dakota National Guard are getting a taste for one of the missions they signed up to perform -- flood duty.

Members from the Bismarck and Devils Lake Recruit Training Companies, or RTCs, activated Saturday to assist with sandbagging in Bismarck and Mandan, N.D.

The RTC program gives newly enlisted Soldiers training and knowledge to help them through their initial entry training and first assignments as a Guardsman. Soldiers drill once a month at RTC units prior to leaving for Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training.

"In all the years that the RTCs have been around, we have not activated them," said Sgt. 1st Class Dean Lundin, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the Devils Lake RTC.

About 70 RTC Soldiers arrived in Bismarck May 29, 2011, and more than 60 more arrived May 30, 2011. The latest arrivals had been celebrating their high school graduations just a day before. Now, they're in uniform doing the job they recently signed up to do as they help their neighbors.

Besides the chance to assist others, the young Soldiers will receive an emergency service ribbon they will wear on their dress uniforms. Being able to start their careers with a decoration will set them apart from their fellow recruits from across the nation who will not have earned any ribbons this early in their military career.

"They are getting a state ribbon for this, so when they do go to basic training they will already have one ribbon," Lundin said. "This also gives them a chance to realize how many people count on the Guard."

The young recruits' first mission quickly impressed on them the importance of the duty they have decided to pursue.

"It's definitely organized chaos here," said Pfc. Matt Ruby, of the Devils Lake RTC. "Things are running a lot smoother than I expected. I've never seen some of these machines before and everything works really well."

"It's nice to get some hands on experience," he added.

RTC soldiers are working 12-hour shifts and staying at the University of Mary to rest in between.

"Everyone is excited to be here and a part of the action," said Chief Warrant Officer Jammy Ryckman, Recruit Training Battalion commander. "A lot of them ship out in June, so they're getting a piece of training before they ship."

The experience is something the new Soldiers are embracing.

"In previous floods they've wanted to be a part of flood operations and haven't had the opportunity to participate," Ryckman said. "This has been a great experience. I'm sure they're learning a lot about teamwork."