DRAYTON. - Sgt. 1st Class Charles "Chip" Olson, a member of the 132nd Quartermaster Co., is fighting a flood battle here from three fronts - personally, professionally and militarily.
"This is my home, too," said Olson, from the Drayton flood Emergency Operation Center.
A member of the Drayton City Council for six years and the city's flood coordinator for four, Olson was born and raised here. He's worked at the local CHS Ag Services since high school.
He's also a 23-year veteran of the North Dakota Army National Guard.
Word is spreading fast about the good work that Olson is doing this spring, on multiple levels, to keep his city safe from the overflowing Red River.
U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Jim Miller, U.S. undersecretary of agriculture, and Doug Gore, deputy regional administrator of FEMA, visited several cities in northeast North Dakota. Conrad said he wanted to listen to residents and take their questions, but he also wanted to meet the guy everyone calls "Chip."
"We couldn't deal with this without them," Conrad said. "We appreciate everything the Guard is doing here."
Olson's National Guard unit was mobilized March 24 to support flood-fighting operations in communities up and down the flooding river systems of eastern North Dakota.
Earlier this month, the mayor of Drayton, Ardis Olson, made a call to the Pembina County's emergency manager to request National Guard assistance.
"I have all the faith in the world in these guys," the mayor told Conrad about Chip and other city officials. "They have been dealing with this every year and are good at it."
When the mayor called for the Guard, she "specifically asked for me," Olson said. "Less than 24 hours from the time the mayor made the call, we were on site."
Olson said his unit has been walking the town's existing dike system, looking for trouble areas.
"Every year (after 1997), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers fills in a few spots where we can't have a permanent dike (where streets intersect the levee)," Olson said. "We really don't need to sandbag and the full-time city staff is so accustomed to flooding, we just get things done."
Soldiers of the 132nd typically purify and store water for human uses during wartime and civil emergencies. However, since being activated, they "have been utilizing our equipment to do missions that they're not typically intended to do," said 1st. Lt. Jake Larson, company commander, who's a native of Brooks, Minn. and now lives in Warren, Minn.
Instead of producing potable water, the 132nd equipment has been poised to pump floodwater out of the dry side of community levee systems. In Drayton, the unit's focus has been on ensuring dike lines remain intact.
Olson's civic roles allow him to work directly with other flood-fighting agencies in his community.
"As a flood coordinator, I am working a few pumping issues with the (Corps)," Olson said. "The water from melting snow is trying to get back to the river, because of the dike system and plugged culverts it can't."
Like many communities in the Red River Valley, Drayton has dealt with its share of floods over the years. The National Guard has always been ready to assist those communities.
"In 2006, the river crested at 42.9 feet and I was just the flood coordinator," Olson said. "We did not have a state activation of the Guard."
The river passed its projected crest of 43.5 feet on Monday and should begin to level off. However, there is a 65 percent chance of a second crest higher than the first looming in the city's future.
"Our dikes are built to 47 feet, and if necessary, we can build the dikes up higher," Olson said. "Evacuation seems highly unlikely."