Indiana's Air, Army Guard respond to regional flooding

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Chris Jennings
  • 181st Intelligence Wing Public Affairs
Members of the Indiana Air National Guard's 181st Intelligence Wing and the Army National Guard's 519th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion came to the aid of their communities as more than six inches of rain fell onto Indiana's Wabash Valley June 6 and 7.

When the call for assistance came in, the Guard was ready to begin sandbag operations to assist as the flooding stranded motorists and poured storm waters into local residents' homes.

"There were several Soldiers and Airmen who made it in only to find out their homes were being flooded," said Maj. Jim Jensen, a 181st Intelligence Wing public affairs officer. "This is a disaster that is affecting us all, but we have a mission to support. Some stayed here to continue filling sandbags for others while their own homes were flooding. That says a lot about Indiana Guardsmen and how much they care about the community."

As of June 10, more than 900 Soldiers and Airmen from across the state have been activated to fight the floods in southern Indiana.

When the governor of Indiana declared a state of emergency, drill weekend became a constant effort to lend a hand to a community in need. Sandbag operations began on base as local television crews were reporting the extent of the damage. Reports of family and friends' homes being flooded trickled in throughout the weekend.

Less than a mile from the base entrance, State Road 42 had collapsed under the weight of rushing floodwaters. Airmen and Soldiers on base could not see the devastation, but reports from other sources became enough to motivate them throughout the night.

"We filled more than 12,000 sandbags in 24 hours," said Chief Master Sgt.
Anne Rice, who was leading the bagging efforts on base. "Even though many have been here throughout the night, our attitudes have been very positive. It's good to see the camaraderie within. We've got them ready to go wherever they are needed."

Members of the 181st IW, 519th CSSB and the 138th Quartermaster Company of Brazil, Ind., offered support June 7 as they sandbagged critical low-lying areas surrounding Terre Haute Regional Hospital. Water was overflowing in front of the hospital and floodwaters rushed into the neighborhoods, Rea Park and surrounding areas. Across the street, more than 50 Air and Army Guard members focused their attention on the main utility facilities supporting the hospital.

"We provided sandbags around their operational and back-up facilities," said Lt. Col. Kevin Vedder, the 519th CSSB commander. "This was a successful joint operation and everyone has been positive and motivated."

Sandbag machines are prepositioned in Vincennes, Linton, Elnora and Terre Haute. About 200 Soldiers from the 38th Infantry Division have been moved to Elnora to assist with sandbagging operations.

Soldiers and Airmen of the Indiana National Guard also opened armories in Martinsville, Greencastle, Brazil, Terre Haute, Bloomington and Danville to support local responders in their operations over the weekend.

"This is a situation where a community is in need of our support," Major Jensen said. "We are the Guard; Air and Army. It is our duty to support the needs of state agencies and provide our assets to the relief effort in any way we can."

Guardsmen also provided drinking water in Hope, Saint Bernice, Paragon, Nineveh, Hymara and Columbus, and search and rescue and security operations in Bartholomew County. Guardsmen worked with local and state agencies to assist in the evacuation of more than 100 patients from the Columbus Regional Hospital.

A UH-60 Blackhawk from the Indiana Army National Guard assisted the American Red Cross with the delivery of food June 8 to Worthington, Ind., a city cut off by the floodwaters.

"We will continue to work to support our citizens in their time of need," said Army Brig. Gen. Margaret S. Washburn. "Our Soldiers and Airmen will work tirelessly to support our local responders and communities throughout the flooding in southern Indiana."