By Staff Sgt. Jeff LowryJune 12, 2008
HOPE, Ind. (Army News Service, June 12, 2008) -- Following devastating floods this week in Indiana, National Guard troops provided fresh, potable water from 400-gallon, camouflaged water tanks to the people of Hope, which is about 10 miles northeast of Columbus, Ind.
With the recent floods, most southern Indiana towns have more water than they can handle, but that's not the case here.
"Considering the whole community is out of water, this is fantastic," said John Zieleniak, a Hope resident.
The floods contaminated Hope's water supply, so the Emergency Management Agency called upon the Indiana National Guard to be Hope's water bearers.
"I appreciate what you guys are doing right here," said Zieleniak to the Guard Soldiers with the 113th Engineer Battalion headquartered in Gary, Ind. Ten Guardsmen manned and dispensed water from the tanks, which most Soldiers refer to as "water buffaloes."
Other Hope residents agreed and thanked the Guard Soldiers for what they were doing during these floods.
"It's excellent; without you guys we'd be up against it," said Stanley Hedger, who added that he and his family had been out of water since Sunday.
One Hope woman voiced her concerns that she had been getting too much water from the troops.
"Don't worry about it; we got plenty of water," said Spc. Aaron Santonelli, a combat engineer with the 113th.
According to Staff Sgt. William Cox, the 10-man team's top enlisted Soldier, the team has dispensed about 10,500 gallons of water in a 36-hour period. They dispensed about 6,500 gallons in the first day.
"Anything that'll hold water, we'll put it in," said Cox of Hobart, Ind. and a career counselor with the battalion.
The Guardsmen, who arrived early Monday morning, said they expect to be here until at least Sunday. While Hope residents were thankful for the water and the Guard's efforts, it was the Soldiers who were appreciative of Hope's Hoosier hospitality.
"The people here and the town officials, everybody has been super nice and helpful," said Cox. "It's a super community to help out."
Wednesday, the town people brought them pizza and pop for lunch.
"The people have made it worth it," said Spc. Marcus McDowell, a combat engineer with the unit.
The Indiana National Guard is also receiving live footage of flood damage throughout the state with the help of an advanced counterdrug aircraft. These images can assist the Guard with missions and help local governments plan, officials said.
"It can show officials where roads are washed out and what damage there is to infrastructure," said Maj. Mark Jeffries, the Missions Systems Officer for the 130th Airlift Wing based out of West Virginia. Jeffries was part of the aircrew for the RC-26B Reconnaissance Cargo plane, one of 11 surveillance planes owned by the National Guard Bureau.
"The RC-26B is equipped with an infrared camera which can pick up any leakage from a power plant for example," Jeffries said. "We can also get nice prints from the still cameras."
(A report from Spc. Cassandra Groce, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, contributed to the latter portion of this article.)