by Bennett Leigh
Hundreds of National Guardsmen were recently called to help with deadly flooding in Arkansas and Missouri after heavy rains and several levee breaches were reported along the Mississippi and other rivers.
As of press time, nearly 600 Missouri National Guard members assisted with flood relief efforts in Missouri, where at least five people have died.
Soldiers and airmen have performed varied tasks: Flying aerial surveys in Lakota and Black Hawk helicopters, conducting rescues, transporting first responders and hauling sand for sandbags, a state Guard spokesman reported.
“Parts of the Meramec, Gasconade and Mississippi Rivers are likely to flood higher than we’ve ever seen in Missouri’s recorded history,” said Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens at an April 30 news conference.
Fallen tree limbs, broken power lines and swift water have been reported in several parts of the state. Some of Missouri’s bridges and structures have been washed out. More than 700 state roads have been closed.
“Thank you to our first responders for their courageous and capable work to keep Missouri families safe and to protect property,” Greitens said in a statement. “Together, we took early action to prepare for this storm, and our pre-staged rescue teams are now executing operations across Missouri. Please stay safe and stay away from rising water.”
In Arkansas, where one death had been reported from the flooding at press time, Guardsmen did what they could to assist local authorities where needed. More than 100 Arkansas National Guard Soldiers and Airmen deployed to northeast Arkansas after heavy flooding hit Lawrence, Randolph, and Clay counties. Soldiers and airmen, many from the Arkansas National Guard’s 87th Troop Command, headquartered on Robinson Maneuver Training Center in North Little Rock, supported eight State Active Duty missions during the flooding crisis. The Guardsmen aided in high water rescue and transport missions, roving security patrols, and manning traffic control points in conjunction with the Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, and numerous other state, county, and city authorities.
“We have the skill sets, the training and the equipment needed to go in and support the local authorities,” said Col. Damon Cluck, the Arkansas National Guard director of military support.
“It’s a good feeling to know that we are there because we’re also citizens of this state and live in these communities,” he added. “There’s nothing we like better than to render assistance and aid to our fellow Arkansans.”
— Steve Marshall with the National Guard Bureau contributed to this report