VALLEY CITY Staff Sgt. Marie Hovrud, Bismarck, is a crew chief with the North Dakota National Guard's 2/285th Helicopter Assault Battalion.
She and more than 400 fellow Guardsmen supported the flood fight through the Easter weekend, some of them serving with the Guard for the second and even third year in a row.
Part of Hovrud's job is to direct the helicopters when they have a load to bring in on a long-line, a long cable that holds cargo that needs to be placed somewhere specific. The crew is also trained on hoist missions, which involves lowering a basket that a rescuer rides down in to pick up a passenger who is stranded.
Submitted Photo • Staff Sgt. Marie Hovrud, a crew chief with the North Dakota National Guard’s 2/285th Helicopter Assault Battalion, gets ready for take off in a UH-60 Black Hawk in Valley City April 23, shown in this photo by Sgt. Jesica Geffre.
Hovrud said the benefit of being close by is that they can react quickly in an emergency.
"My mother lives in an area that was affected by the flood in previous years and she said she feels better knowing the National Guard is close by," Hovrud said. "If something happens, we're right here when they need us."
This was her third Easter away from home due to military obligations. Last year she was deployed to Iraq and in 2009 she was in North Dakota fighting the floods in several locations.
Hovrud said the '09 experience was extremely beneficial to this year's effort. "We dropped so many sandbags that year, we really got it down."
Chief Warrant Officer 2 David Kilber, 1/112th Headquarters and Headquarters Company, a pilot on the Quick Reaction Force at Valley City, said he is happy to be participating in the flood fight.
"I love it," Kilber said. "I volunteered for this; it's a great way to get real-world experience."
Kilber flies the UH-60 Black Hawk that is being used in the flood fight to conduct reconnaissance missions, help in emergency rescues and assist the Quick Reaction Force in placing the large one-ton sandbags to re-enforce the levee system when necessary.
Spc. Shane Leingang, an aviation operations specialist with C Company of the Helicopter Assault Battalion, has been on the flood fight since the beginning of April. Leingang is the communication link between the Joint Operations Center and the Helicopter Assault Battalion. His job focuses on the logistical aspect of moving aircraft and personnel related to the mission in Cass County.
The unit is part of the Quick Reaction Force that would respond to overland flooding by hoisting the one-ton sandbags into places difficult to reach by land.
"In 2009 we did a lot and it worked well," Leingang said. "So they wanted us on standby again this year."
Wednesday was the end of mission for the UH-60 Black Hawks at Valley City, and for all of the aviation task force. Headquarters Headquarters Company 1-112th Security and Support Battalion and C Company 2/285 Assault Battalion deactivated.
The Black Hawks returned to Bismarck which is their home base but are always ready to respond to any emergencies.
About 125 Guardsmen continue to conduct Quick Reaction Force missions, patrol dikes and run a Tactical Operations Center.
As of today, about 50 Guardsmen remain in Valley City and about 150 more are in other areas in the state responding to flooding.