By Iowa ARNGMay 28, 2008
PARKERSBURG, Iowa (Army News Service, May 29, 2008) -- About 175 Iowa National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are now serving on state active duty in support of tornado relief and recovery efforts for northeast Iowa.
The servicemembers were activated late Monday night and Tuesday morning following tornadoes and severe storms in the Butler County area, including one in Parkersburg Sunday reported as an EF-5 with winds up to 205 miles per hour.
With numerous power lines down, leakage from damaged vehicles, severed natural gas lines, debris, rubble and unstable structures, about 160 Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry are providing security and aiding local officials in recovery efforts at Parkersburg. The 1-133rd is headquartered in Waterloo, with subordinate units in Dubuque, Oelwein, Charles City, and Iowa Falls.
Officials said the Soldiers and Airmen will probably remain on duty for the next several days.
"I'm no stranger to tornado damage, but I've never seen anything like this," said Spc. Erik A. Borseth, a medic with the 1st Battalion's Headquarters Company. He has been treating Guard Soldiers for blisters and minor cuts and he's been going out on night patrols with other members of the 133rd. "It feels good to be here, Borseth said, "like we're accomplishing something for these Parkersburg people. That's our job. That's what we're here to do. That's how Iowans are."
The southern half of Parkersburg, a farming community of about 1,700, has been virtually flattened, but the northern half remains largely intact with some damage to the infrastructure, reported Rick Breitenfeldt of the National Guard Bureau.
Most National Guard personnel are performing security missions, primarily during the curfew hours of 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., Breitenfeldt added. Other duties include providing power to the incident command center at a badly damaged fire station in the town and staffing a communications center for emergency personnel.
"If I could do more, I would. The damage is overwhelming and surreal," said Iowa Army Guard Maj. Jay W. Lohmann, team chief for the Guard's communications center. "Private citizens keep approaching me, asking for permission to do things. I can't give them that permission, because the Guard is supporting civilian agencies. But it tells me that the public respects and appreciates the job that the National Guard is doing."
About 15 additional Soldiers and Airmen from the 67th Troop Command (Iowa City), Joint Forces Headquarters (Johnston), 734th Regional Support Group (Johnston), 133rd Test Squadron (Ft. Dodge), 132nd Fighter Wing (Des Moines), and Iowa Air National Guard Headquarters (Johnston), are providing communications support, transporting water, creating emergency electrical power, and providing operational support. Additionally, the Iowa National Guard armory in Waterloo is being used as an operations center for American Red Cross relief efforts.
Many of the Guard Soldiers are veterans of the war in Iraq and other aspects of the War on Terrorism. "Now we're helping the people in our own state. That feels good," said one Soldier who was satisfied to be serving at home.