June 8, 2009

Virginia Guard Engineers return home after helping with West Virginia flood recovery

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
and Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

CEDAR BLUFF, Va. Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard’s Cedar Bluff-based 1033rd Engineer Company returned home June 6 after serving in West Virginia where they assisted with the state’s flood recovery operations. Approximately 30 Soldiers from the 1033rd arrived in West Virginia May 18 to assist with debris removal and other clean up operations. The Soldiers remained on state active duty until June 10, using the time to clean and reset the equipment used during the mission.

  1033rd returns from West Virginia

 Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard’s Cedar Bluff-based 1033rd Engineer Company arrived safely in West Virginia May 18 where they began assisting with the state’s flood recovery operations. Approximately 30 Soldiers will assist with debris removal and other clean up operations and are scheduled to be on duty for up to 30 days. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) For more photos, please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page.

 “We are very excited about this mission,” said 1st Lt. Adam Provost of Charlottesville, the commander of the 1033rd before they left for West Virginia. “This is the mission most of us signed up for, and that’s to help our neighbors and local communities. Fighting wars overseas is an important part of our job, but supporting our communities is why we joined the Guard.”

While in West Virginia the Soldiers worked side by side with their counterparts from West Virginia’s 111th Engineer Brigade, as well as with local civilians. The 1033rd worked hand in hand with elements from the West Virginia Air Guard as well as the 151st Military Police Battalion out of Dunbar, W. Va.

The engineers were busy cleaning debris and moving rock to fill in the washed-out sections of roads.

Over the course of the mission the Soldiers of the 1033rd removed 489 loads of flood debris and hauled and placed 1,613 tons of rock and soil of support of road repair throughout the western half of Mingo County, according to Provost.

That includes one stretch that was over five miles long and rendered near impassable by flood damage. The Soldiers were welcomed warmly by the West Virginia Guardsmen and integrated well, Provost said. “These guys have been awesome, anything we need they are able to get us,” he said.

The local community was devastated by 5-6 inches of rain in a span of 3-4 hours which caused flash floods and water damage to several counties in Southern West Virginia and the surrounding areas. In some areas the water came in and ate the roadways away, according to Provost.

The Virginia Guard Soldiers were equipped with four 2.5 cubic-yard frontend loaders hauled by tractor trailers, eight 5-ton dump trucks and nine chain saw kits. The 1033rd provided the necessary personnel support to operate and maintain the equipment.

“This is one of the more fulfilling missions we have in the Virginia National Guard, but also one of the most devastating when you see where your neighbors have lost everything,” said Sgt. 1st Class Claude Dye, acting first sergeant from Richlands.

Dye served on flood recovery duty in West Virginia in 2001, and he saw first hand the impact of severe flooding on the citizens living in flood-damaged areas.

Dye said that about 70 percent of the Soldiers on the mission just returned home from an overseas deployment about five months ago, and he hopes their experience and “mission first” mind set will set the example for the younger Soldiers in the unit.

The goal for the mission is to “hit it hard, get it done, and everyone comes home with 10 fingers and 10 toes,” Dye said, and all the unit’s Soldiers returned home safely.

The request for assistance came through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a Congressionally-ratified organization that provides form and structure to interstate mutual aid. Through EMAC, a disaster-impacted state can request and receive assistance from other member states quickly and efficiently.

“We welcome the chance to assist our neighbors in West Virginia during this time of need,” said Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia. “It is important that we all know that in a crisis where the health and welfare of citizens are at risk, no one stands alone. I am glad we can provide assistance, and I know if the tables were turned, we could count on assistance from other states here in Virginia.”

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