Thursday, March 26, 2009

Obama Pledges More Support for Returning Combat Veterans

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

March 26, 2009 - President Barack Obama promised during an online town hall meeting today to ensure returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan receive the benefits and support they deserve. "When our veterans come home from Iraq and Afghanistan -- and they have performed brilliantly; they have done everything that's been asked of them, regardless of what your views are on these wars -- they have earned these benefits that, all too often, we fail to give them," the president told a questioner during a session otherwise dominated by economic issues.

Obama said his Department of Veterans Affairs budget proposal -- with the biggest funding increase in 30 years – will help provide more services to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

It also will help clear up the backlog that Obama said too many veterans experience before they receive the benefits to which they're entitled.

The president called the high homeless rate for veterans -- multiple times that of nonveterans --"inexcusable." "We're going to make sure that homeless veterans are receiving housing and services," he said.

But Obama emphasized that "government alone can't do it" in supporting the country's veterans.

"All of us, individually, are going to have roles," he said. "That's going to be critical." For example, business owners can't discriminate against veterans when they hire. Communities, neighborhoods and churches need to reach out to veterans, and to celebrate when they return home.

"I think we've done a much better job during these wars than we did during Vietnam, where in many cases our treatment of veterans was inexcusable," Obama said. "But we can always do more. Government is going to ... do its role, and then we've got to make sure that our communities do their role as well."

Obama reflected on his visit to Arlington National Cemetery yesterday, where he met with about 35 of the 98 living Medal of Honor recipients during a Medal of Honor Day ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

"And it just reminds you that we wouldn't be here if it hadn't been for the sacrifices of earlier veterans," he said. "We would not enjoy the same safety and security and liberty that we do."

USO Metro Salutes Exceptional Troops, Volunteers

By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

March 26, 2009 - The United Services Organizations honored members of the U.S. military and those who support them during an event held here last night that recognized selfless service and volunteerism . The United Service Organizations of Metropolitan Washington, or USO-Metro for short, held its 27th annual awards dinner at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. The organization assists some 300,000 local troops and families.

"I love this event," Academy Award-winning actress Renee Zellweger said. "It is so special to have been invited here tonight to dine in honor of our military and in celebrating the work that the USO of Metropolitan Washington does."

Zellweger gave tribute to wounded warriors and their families, sharing her experiences of visits she's made to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., over the last year. She recognized four wounded warriors currently recovering from injuries and shared their stories with an audience of more than 300 military members and supporters.

"I've met a lot of true heroes through the USO," she said. "The hardest road the soldiers walk is the one he or she faces after the battle is over. It's inspiring, but it's extraordinarily moving. I have to say, it's tremendously humbling."

Army Sgt. Jason Shepperly, a combat medic and one of the wounded warriors introduced by Zellweger, had the opportunity to present the evening's top honor. The USO-Metro Merit Award was presented to comedian-politician Al Franken for his seven overseas tours to visit deployed troops and numerous volunteer hours he's given to wounded warriors at local military hospitals.

Shepperly was wounded in Mosul, Iraq, last year and is recovering from leg injuries at Walter Reed, where he first met Franken and Zellweger as well as other celebrities and entertainers, he said.

"[Wounded warriors] all have stories about how the USO has boosted our spirits from meeting entertainers to check out football or baseball games," Shepperly said. "In my experience, it's not just the injury that gets to you, it's also the boredom of being stuck in a hospital bed day after day. The USO gives us something to look forward to."

Shepperly recalled Franken's most recent visit to Walter Reed, describing the bond Shepperly and other wounded troops had with him, calling Franken "just one of the guys."

"I remember sitting in the hospital room cracking jokes and getting a laugh with one of the funniest guys I've ever had the pleasure of meeting," Shepperly said. "We could tell that he cared, and we had fun.

"I'm truly honored to present the man who has entertained the troops in the field and in the hospital, a man who has given up holidays with his family, spent time in heavy body armor stomping through the sand just to be there for the soldiers," he continued.

Franken thanked Shepperly and the USO-Metro "for making entertaining and my experience with the USO the most rewarding thing I've ever done."

Franken recalled his first experience visiting wounded troops, telling the audience of how nervous he was. Thoughts of "how am I going to cheer up a guy who is in danger of losing his leg or has traumatic brain injury or is an amputee." raced through his mind, he said.

His anxiety soon went away, he added, as he realized the resilience and positive attitudes the troops carried with them.

"What you learn, of course, is that they cheer you up, and that you leave with more than what you came with," he said.

Among Franken and Zellweger, the list of celebrity USO supporters attending last night were book author and professional wrestler Mick Foley, actress and model Leann Tweeden, Miss American 2009 Katie Stam and several National Football League former players. Also, 34 of the 98 living Medal of Honor recipients were in attendance and were honored with a performance by singing trio, The American Belles.

Other award recipients were:

-- Army Sgt. 1st Class (retired) Carlo De Porto received the Col. John Gioia Patriot Award for more than 32 years of military service, spanning from World War II to the Vietnam War. He's spent more than 50 years and logged more than 10,000 volunteer hours with the USO. At 86, he still volunteers every Thursday at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport USO.

-- The NFL Alumni Association was awarded the Legacy of Hope Award for the countless volunteer hours former NFL players have dedicated to visiting wounded and deployed servicemembers all over the world. The NFL Alumni Association remains actively involved with USO-Metro fundraisers and programs.

-- Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Barrows received a USO-Metro Special Salute for deploying a Coast Guard cutter to the Arabian Gulf in Iraqi water in April 2003, which was the first combat deployment by the U.S. Coast Guard since the Vietnam War. He received the Bronze Star Medal for his Service.

-- Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Luis E. Fronseca, Jr. received a USO-Metro Special Salute for rescuing injured Marines from a burning amphibious assault vehicle in April 2003 Baghdad. Fronseca's vehicle, where he was treating casualties, was eventually hit with enemy fire. He organized a litter team to hand-carry the casualties to safety. All of his casualties survived. He received the Navy Cross for his actions.

-- Marine Staff Sgt. Joseph Perez received a USO-Metro Special Salute for leading a charge to destroy an Iraqi position April 2003 in Baghdad. In an engagement later in the day, he sustained gunshot wounds to his torso and shoulders, but continued to direct his squad to overrun another Iraqi position. He received the Navy Cross for his actions.

-- Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Waiters received a USO-Metro Special Salute for rescuing fellow soldiers from a flame-engulfed Bradley Fighting Vehicle in the midst of enemy fire in Diyala province, Iraq, in April 2007. He shot his way through more than 100 meters of enemy fire, killing two insurgents and eventually pulling the soldiers out of the vehicle and to safety. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions.

-- Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Rhyner received a USO-Metro Special Salute for successfully calling in air strikes after his team of Army Special Forces soldiers and Afghan troops were ambushed by more 200 enemy fighters April 2008 in Afghanistan. He suffered bullet wounds to his leg but still managed to alternate between returning fire and calling in air support for more than 6 hours. He was awarded the Air Force Cross for his actions.

10,000th MRAP En Route to Central Command

By Army Master Sgt. Kevin Young and Dani Pacheco
American Forces Press Service

March 26, 2009 - Military and civilian officials gathered March 23 to commemorate the 10,000th surface shipment of mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, known as MRAPs, to the U.S. Central Command area of operations, which includes Iraq and Afghanistan. Air Force Gen. Duncan J. McNabb, commander of U.S. Transportation Command, and Army Maj. Gen. James L. Hodge, commander of Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, attended the event at Wharf Alpha at the Naval Weapons Station Charleston here. SDDC's 841st Transportation Battalion served as host for the commemoration.

In his remarks, Army Lt. Col. Randy Haufe, battalion commanding officer, acknowledged the team effort responsible for this milestone. He recognized his civilian and military workforce and that of the International Longshoremen Association from Terminal Corporation-East for their dedication in accomplishing this and other vital port operations here.

Hodge also saluted the efforts of those involved in the shipment of MRAPs, which he described as "the best equipment our service men and women could have available as they serve in harm's way."

McNabb recognized the professionalism and dedication involved on everyone's part in the safe, secure and efficient shipment of the 10,000 MRAPs. "These lifesaving vehicles are proving their value every day in protecting our warfighters and keeping them safe."

Army Capt. Lonnie Nipper of the 841st, who recently returned from a 12-month tour in Iraq, shared his personal experiences with the MRAP.

In Iraq, Nipper worked with about 15 soldiers as part of a military transition team responsible for mentoring and advising Iraqi forces. He recalled when improvised explosive devices hit his convoy of MRAPs. Though MRAPs were delayed by flat tires, vehicle damage and, on one occasion, one flipped over, there were no casualties.

"If it wasn't for the people working diligently here getting these vehicles ready and shipped over to us, we wouldn't be able to accomplish our mission," Nipper said. "So, thank you."

The ship carrying the 10,000th MRAP, the MV Alliance New York, is the same ship that delivered the first MRAP carried by surface to the Central Command theater of operations in November 2007.

(Army Master Sgt. Kevin Young serves with the 841st Transportation Battalion and Dani Pacheco is an employee of Naval Weapons Station Charleston.)


The Air Force is modifying a firm fixed price contract with Honeywell International Incorporated of Tempe, Ariz., for $87,143,385. This indefinite delivery, indefinite quality requirements contract is for overhaul/repair and spares in support of several weapons systems. At this time, no money has been obligated. 448 SCMG/PKBC, Tinker Air Force Base is the contracting activity (F34601-00-D-0371, P00068).

The Air Force is awarding an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract to L-3 Communications Corp., of Camden, N.J., for a maximum $49,750,000. This action will provide for small UAS research and evaluation program is to provide maximum flexibility to perform research and evaluation for Small Unmanned Serial Systems. At this time, $78,414 has been obligated. AFRL/PKDA, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Okla., is the contracting activity (FA8650-09-D-7903).

The Air Force is modifying a cost plus fixed fee contract to BBN Technologies Corp., of Cambridge, Mass., for $11,338,058. The action provides for Wireless Network after Next Adaptive Network Development. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. AFRL/RIKF Rome, N.Y., is the contracting activity (FA8750-07-C-0169, P00005).


The Haskell Co., Jacksonville, Fla., is being awarded a $23,199,000 firm fixed price contract for design and construction a Bachelor Enlisted Quarters (BEQ) at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. The BEQ shall contain a total of 180 sleeping rooms (174 double-occupancy; two units on the ground floor handicap accessible double-occupancy). Maximum housing occupancy shall be 348 enlisted military personnel. Each BEQ shall include an interior corridors, entrance vestibule, Barracks Manager's office with duty counter, duty storage, private head and bunk room; multi-purpose room; linen storage room; laundry room with commercial-grade top loading washers and stackable dryers; single public head; vending space; elevator; stair towers; janitor closets; facility support spaces include mechanical room, electrical room, telecommunications room, and fire protection/pump room; and material storage rooms. The contract also contains one unexercised option, which if exercised would increase cumulative contract value to $25,026,000. Work will be performed in Cherry Point, N.C., and is expected to be completed by Apr. 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with 15 proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Mid-Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity (N40085-09-C-3! 201).

Rockwell Collins Inc., Richardson, Texas, is being awarded a $10,281,275 fixed firm price contract for approximately 37,250 man-hours of non-recurring engineering, installation, and testing in support of Phase four of the Internet Protocol and Bandwidth Expansion (IPBE) for the E-6B Take Charge and Move Out (TACAMO) aircraft. In addition, a total of three options with a total value of $7,678,423 are being exercised at time of award that includes an additional 40,900 man-hours of non-recurring engineering, installation, and testing. The purpose of the IPBE Phase 4 is to install the Digital Northstar System on the E-6B aircraft to provide the aircraft with the necessary interoperability and the proper configuration to communicate with DNS ground sites. Work will be performed in Richardson, Texas, (69 percent); Cedar Rapids, Iowa, (18 percent); and Phoenix, Ariz., (13 percent), and is expected to be completed in Mar. 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-09-C-0035).

AECOM Design, Roanoke, Va., is being awarded a maximum amount $7,500,000 firm fixed price, indefinite quantity contract for architectural design and engineering services for support of projects within the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic area of responsibility (AOR). The work to be performed provides for architectural and engineering services, including civil/structural/mechanical/electrical. Services that may be required under this contract include DD Form 1391 documentation, plans, specifications, cost estimates, related studies, all associated engineering services, shop drawing review, as-built drawing preparation, Quality Assurance Plan preparation, Operation and Maintenance Support Information, and construction surveillance and engineering consultation services during construction. Work will be performed at various Navy and Marine Corps Installations and other Government facilities within the NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic AOR including, but not limited to Conn. (35 percent), R.I., (35 precent) and Mass. (30 percent), and is expected to be completed by Mar. 2014. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website with 17 proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Mid-Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity (N40085-09-D-7020).

Scott Technologies, Inc. DBA Scott Health & Safety, Monroe, N.C., is being awarded a $6,384,000 firm fixed price requirements contract for the procurement of 3,200 Supplied Air Respirator with Escape Self Contained Breathing Apparatus. Work will be performed in Monroe, N.C., and is expected to be completed by Mar. 2014. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online and Federal Business Opportunities websites, with one offer was received. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, Panama City, Fla., is the contracting activity (N61331-09-D-0011).


Lynden Air Cargo, LLC, of Anchorage, Alaska, 99502-1809 is being awarded a $52,788,495.00 firm fixed price requirements contract to obtain air cargo service from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, to Shemya and various points throughout the state of Alaska. The performance period is from Apr. 1, 2009, to Mar. 31, 2010, plus four one-year options. This contract was a competitive acquisition with one bid received. The contracting activity is United States Transportation Command Directorate of Acquisitions, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., 62225 (HTC711-09-D-0015). Both Lynden Air Cargo and Elmendorf Air Force Base are in Alaska vice Arkansas.

Guard Fights Floods in North Dakota, Three Other States

By Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
American Forces Press Service

March 26, 2009 - The next few days will be critical as North Dakota braces for record-setting Red River water levels, officials in the affected area said today.
A National Guard task force brought strong communication with other agencies and the physical effort of 1,200 citizen-soldiers and -airmen to a fight against time.

"The biggest issue is if the dike breaks," Army Col. James Hrdlicka, commander, Joint Task Force East, said by telephone from Fargo, N.D., the state's largest city, with about 100,000 residents facing potentially disastrous flooding.

"It's supposed to crest approximately this Saturday," Hrdlicka said, emphasizing that weather forecasting is an uncertain art. "One or two days -- don't take this for gospel -- during that time frame is when it's going to be critical that that thing holds. Once it starts to subside, once we get to that point and nothing has given way or it's still holding, then we should be OK."

North Dakota was at the epicenter of a four-state struggle against the elements, while three others had their hands full as well.

In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Pawlenty was submitting an expedited major disaster declaration request as about 430 Guard members distributed sandbags, provided security at sandbagging sites, patrolled dikes, secured pumps and
controlled traffic.

In South Dakota, Guard members helped the state's transportation department remove snow after severe snowfall March 23 fell on Sturgis and Rapid City, forcing the closure of Interstate 90 from the Wyoming border to Chamberlain.

In Montana, National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters provided search and rescue assistance after transportation workers were unable to breach heavy snow and ice to reach stranded motorists following the March 23 snowstorm.

Hrdlicka and his soldiers and airmen found themselves facing some of the storm's severest tests after the melt from accumulated snow and ice threatened to swell the Red River to levels not seen in living memory.

"Our presence helps," Hrdlicka said. "It makes people feel a little more comfortable."

Guard members assisted with evacuations and traffic control, lined up to place sandbags that strengthened levees, and provided aerial surveillance. North Dakota troops, in particular, provided personnel and resources to key flood-fighting areas. They filled, stored and distributed sandbags; patrolled dikes; broke ice jams; provided security; operated traffic control points; and helped stranded citizens threatened by flood waters.

The National Guard was contributing to a team effort that included the state's Emergency Operations Center working at its highest activation level, a Red Cross shelter opening, a private engineering company blasting ice in Bismarck, and local law enforcement and other rescue workers out in force.

"The most important thing is communicating and being with the city officials and their [Emergency Operations Center]," Hrdlicka said. "When we're out doing missions, the soldiers and airmen are side by side with the citizens."

The Red River previously reached about 39 feet in 1997, the commander said. "If it gets over 39 1/2, something like that, then this will be one of the biggest events in this area. The entire state is seeing flooding that many people really haven't seen in places that normally don't."

Some Guard members were on duty even though their own homes were at risk. "If there is a situation at their house, they come off state active duty and go take care of that," Hrdlicka said. "A lot of them come back."

Joint Task Force East serves the Red River Valley, where the river flows north from the border with South Dakota to the Canadian border. Wahpeton is the first community in the river's progress from the southern part of the state. It flows north through Fargo, the Grand Forks and numerous communities on up to Canada.

"We will be following this all the way up to Canada," Hrdlicka said. "We had a call for volunteers. We had real short notice. Within 24 hours, we had 200. They step up, they really do. The attitude is really good. It's snowing out. We had freezing rain last night. The roads are slippery.

Visibility isn't that great. We've got folks out there on traffic control points and building dikes and putting up barriers, and their attitude is good. They have a sense that they're helping somebody, and that really makes a difference."

(Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill serves at the National Guard Bureau.)

'Operation Purple' Offers Summer Fun to Military Kids

By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service

March 26, 2009 - The National Military Family Association will host more than 9,000 military children at "Operation Purple" youth camps across America this year. These free, weeklong, overnight camps are meant to bring children of deployed servicemembers, ages 7 to 17, together for an exciting and memorable experience. Camps will be held in 62 locations and 37 states and territories across the United States.

"We understand these are trying times for our youngest heroes," Michelle Joyner, NMFA's director of communications, said. "Operation Purple Camps bring together kids in similar situations and teach them coping skills to better deal with their feelings. At the same time, the camp helps build their confidence by introducing new experiences like learning to be stewards of the environment."

Military children experience a wide range of activities at the camps from horseback riding and canoeing to rock climbing and swimming. Each camp creates a "Wall of Honor" in which campers are asked to bring a photo of their parent to be posted. Campers also are given an opportunity to talk about their parent during this event. A military-themed activity day allows campers to work with their local military community on a joint project.

A military guest speaker also is invited to speak with campers.

"Outside of the traditional outdoor activities, campers are given the chance to learn more about what the deployment is really like," Joyner said.

The Operation Purple program was created by NMFA, headquartered in Alexandria, Va., in 2004 as a way to help military children struggling with the stresses of war. The program includes traditional summer camps, teen camps, teen leadership camps, family retreat camps and day clinics in overseas locations.

"This year, we're excited to offer three Operation Purple Teen Leadership Camps for military teens who are role models and leaders in their community," Joyner said. "These leadership camps last a bit longer, 10 days, and include travel expenses to and from camp. After camp, teens return home armed to make a difference in their community."

Registration for this year's camps will be open until midnight EST on April 20. Priority will be given to military children with a parent deployed or deploying anytime between September 2008 and December 2009 and who have not had the opportunity to attend an Operation Purple camp in the past.

Thanks to the support of the Sierra Club, a grassroots environmental organization, camps are free to all participants.

"Sierra Club is proud to be working with the National Military Family Association to connect our nation's youngest heroes with the healing benefits of the outdoors," Brittany McKee, Sierra Club's national military representative, said. "Operation Purple camps empower military children and provide a much-needed respite from worries about their deployed parent."

Since Operation Purple Camp's inception, NMFA has sent more than 20,000 military kids to camp for free.

Guard Soldiers, Airmen Use Familiar Barriers to Dam Rising Floodwaters

By Army Sgt. 1st Class David Dodds
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 26, 2009 - While deployed in Iraq, the towering Hesco barriers that ringed the base became a familiar sight to Army Spc. Ryan L. Karsky. These large, modular steel baskets, lined with a fine, mesh material, held compacted desert sand, gravel and chunks of concrete. They served as an effective shield against hostile fire and shrapnel.

Now back home in North Dakota, Karsky, a member of the North Dakota Army National Guard's 817th Engineer Company, has found a different use for the trusty barriers. He was among about 50 Guard soldiers and airmen constructing miles of Hesco barriers along low-lying parts of Fargo, which is dealing with major flooding.

For many of south Fargo's most flood-prone neighborhoods, the Hescos are all that stand between the homes and the rising Red River.

"I saw them all the time in Iraq," Karsky said, "but I never ever thought we'd be using them to fight a flood. I thought we'd be over here throwing sandbags."

Sandbag dikes were the protection of choice back in 1997, the last time the Red River seriously threatened the Fargo area and before many of the citizen-soldiers and -airmen working the dike lines today were even Guardsmen.

Army 1st Sgt. Curtis W. Kaseman, also of the 817th, remembers the 1997 flood fight well. And as an Iraq war veteran, he's another soldier who had come to appreciate the Hescos for the protection they offered in a combat zone.

Kaseman, of Jamestown, N.D., said the Hesco barriers in Iraq were much larger -- some as high as 20 feet -- than the 3-foot versions being used in Fargo this week. The barriers are lined with plastic to help hold back the impending wall of water.

"They are not new technology as far as fighting floods is concerned, but they definitely are new around here since 1997," Kaseman said.

Representatives of Hesco Inc. said the barriers were designed primarily for flood control and to impede hillside erosion. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan opened up a new use for the barriers.

What makes the barriers so beneficial is the speed at which they can be constructed compared to traditional sandbag efforts. Company specifications claim that what would take a crew more than 70 hours to do with sandbags can be done in about 30 minutes with Hesco barriers.

As the Guarsmen set up and fill the Hescos, it is a race against the clock and the swelling river. The members of the Jamestown-based 817th have been placed on active-duty orders and sent to Fargo to fight the flood.

They join more than 800 North Dakota Guard soldiers and airmen, most of whom volunteered, for the statewide flood-fighting efforts. All are working alongside civilian contractors, businesses and homeowners to hold the high ground.

Before his unit was activated, Army Spc. Brett M. Steele was a Guard volunteer already involved in flood fighting in central North Dakota, near Beulah. He said it was hard to just pick up and leave.

"But this is where we need to be now," Steele said. "My only hesitation in all of this is that I had to move from one spot in need to another one."

Army Spc. Jordan J. Nygaard, also with the 817th, said he was amazed by the rapid-fire pace of the dike work going on around him this week. The soldiers kept the Hesco assembly line humming, as a parade of dump trucks supplied fresh clay and dirt to the site near Fargo's Lindenwood Park. A fleet of Bobcat loaders, driven by civilian contractors, filled the Hescos as quickly as they were set up.

"It's kind of intriguing to see nine Bobcat loaders working so quickly within a distance of one city block," Nygaard said. "There's a lot of moving parts. You have to watch out."

Gary Boatman, a Fargo resident whose mother lives near Lindenwood Park, was in the area and saw the work being done by the Guard. He wanted to help, so he brought his own Bobcat loader to the fight, complete with a cardboard sign that said, "Tell me what to do!"

"It's not just these neighborhoods that appreciate what the Guard is doing for us -- it's the whole city of Fargo," Boatman said, between hauling loads.

On Fargo's north side, flood fighting was in full effect yesterday morning.

Because of the terrain in the area, Hesco barriers could not be used, said Army 1st Lt. John W. Peyerl, a volunteer from the 136th Combat Service Support Battalion in Grand Forks.

Peyerl said about 130 Guard soldiers and airmen were forming a chain to move sandbags and place them about 2 feet high.

"They're a little sore out there today, but I don't think any of them are sorry they signed up for this," Peyerl said. "This is what they want to be doing, and they are out having a good time."

Air Force Staff Sgt. Elliot Steinbrink, with the North Dakota Air Guard's 119th Wing, had more on his mind than some of the other volunteers on the sandbag line. His home is only blocks away from the river.

"It makes me nervous, but everyone needs the help, not just me," Steinbrink said. "When you're working as a National Guardsmen, it means something. People recognize that and it feels good."

(Army Sgt. 1st Class David Dodds serves with the North Dakota Army National Guard.)