BEAUFORT, S.C. (Army News Service, April 23, 2008) - In the wake of a devastating earthquake and simulated flooding, a portion of the 122nd Engineer Battalion swung into action Monday during the Vigilant Guard 2008 Exercise.

Vigilant Guard is a three-day National Guard exercise in South Carolina and Tennessee. It was designed to test the National Guard as the first military responder in support of the governors and their state Emergency Management Agencies, officials said.

In the Beaufort disaster scenario, a team of 10 Soldiers, working alongside the Beaufort County Public Works Stormwater Infrastructure, deployed to a residential neighborhood to clear debris and overgrown brush from a trench in order to handle the flood waters.

Staff Sgt. Kevin Knowles, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the mission, said Vigilant Guard is an opportunity to accomplish a real-world mission in a training scenario that directly benefits the public.

"That's what this exercise is for," said Knowles. "To see how well we work together with civilian authorities in order to help the community."

Operating chainsaws and a wood chipper, two teams of engineers worked from opposite ends of the trench to clear away overgrown trees, weeds, vines and trash that built up over the years.
"We received the call after the earthquake hit to come here and clear away a number of areas, with this being one of them," Knowles said. "We needed to give the water somewhere to go other than overflowing the banks."

He said the local population has been supportive of their efforts.

"The community seems very receptive of us so far," he says. "We've had a lot of people thank us for being here and doing what we're doing."

Knowles says that it's important for people to realize that during times of domestic disaster, the National Guard is the first military responder.

"We want to show everyone that the National Guard is not only here for overseas duty, but first and foremost for the community as well."