May 6, 2002, 09:07 EDT

Virginia Guard soldiers assist in flood recovery

by Lt. Col. Chester C. Carter, III
Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Officer

Sgt. 1st. Class Donald Strugil operates a 2.5 cubic year end loader to prepare a bridging site on Knox Creek in Hurley, Buchanan County, Va. Sgt. Sturgil and other members of the 189th Engineer Company are assisting the citizens of Hurley with their flood recovery efforts.(Photo courtesy of the Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office)

HURLEY, Va. - Maj. Gen. Claude A. Williams announced yesterday that Virginia Army National Guard soldiers of the 189th Engineer Company, stationed in Big Stone Gap, Va., were answering Gov. Mark Warner's order to state active duty. The soldiers traveled from their home station to Hurley in Buchanan County, Va., on Sunday, May 5, 2002, to assist the citizens of Hurley recover from the ravages of last week's devastating flood there.

Approximately 40 soldiers left Big Stone Gap on the morning of May 5, 2002, with heavy engineering and bridging equipment. These soldiers immediately set about their mission upon arriving in Hurley. Sgt. Richard Nipper, a member of the 189th Engineer Company, said as many as 14 bridges across Knox Creek had been washed away in last week's flooding. He said the unit has enough bridging equipment to establish four bridges. These bridges will give people living along Knox Creek access to the main road which runs along Knox Creek. He said the unit would set up its operation in the Hurley High School, which is located in Hurley.

Sgt. 1st Class Gary Dorton, platoon sergeant for the first platoon of the 189th Engineer Company, said that soldiers would have to stay with the bridges once they are constructed. He pointed out the bridges will have weight restrictions and speed limits. The soldiers will be stationed at the bridges to insure weight restrictions and speed limits on the bridges are observed.

Although the actual construction of these bridges didn't begin until the afternoon of May 5, extensive planning and coordination took place before the unit arrived in Hurley. Senior members of the unit coordinated with the on site Emergency Service Coordinator to identify potential bridge sites and to prioritize those sites. This allowed the soldiers to set about their task upon arrival in Hurley. Sgt. 1st Class Donald Strugil, platoon sergeant for the unit's heavy equipment platoon, immediately unloaded his 2.5 cubic yard end loader from its transporter and moved to the first bridge location to begin site preparation. His effort will assure the bridge is properly placed between the two banks of Knox Creek when it is constructed.

This call to duty to help neighbors in need underscores the responsiveness and versatility of the Virginia Army and Air National Guard. In the last 12 months soldiers of the 29th Infantry Division, 224th Aviation, and 229th Engineer Battalion of the Virginia Army National Guard deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina to enforce the Dayton Peace Accord. These soldiers successfully accomplished this mission and the units returned home last month. Soldiers and airmen of the Virginia Army and Air National Guard have been engaged in the homeland defense mission defending the Commonwealth since last September 11th. Soldiers have been on duty in Virginia's commercial service airports, military installations and critical facilities in Virginia. Members of the Virginia Air National Guard have flown Combat Air Patrols over the Commonwealth, Washington, D. C., and the East Coast. Soldiers and airmen of the Virginia Army and Air National Guard have also mobilized and deployed in response to a federal call to duty. The performance of the Virginia National Guard continues to underscore the motto "Always Ready - Always There."

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