Operation Rising Water
By Senior Airman Matthew Benedetti, 104th Fighter Wing
/ Published April 10, 2010
Barnes Air National Guard Base, 104 Fighter Wing - Westfield, Mass -- Over 1000 members of the Massachusetts National Guard answered the call to duty in response to the historic floods of March 2010. Soldiers and Airmen worked diligently in the driving rain for over four days and nights to assist residents of the communities impacted by the cresting waters.
Members of the 104th FW, 212th EIS (Engineering Installation Squadron) and the 126nd Army BSB (Brigade Support BN) were bivouacked at the 101st Eng BN in Whitinsville during the operation. Guardsmen deployed from the armory in teams over the course of the week in support of operations in South Central Massachusetts. Most Guardsmen were tasked with filling and deploying sandbags to locations in danger of being flooded.
The residents of Blackstone came out in force to watch Airmen attempt to stem the rising crest of the Blackstone River. The assembly line formation of members began at the end of a truck full of sandbags and snaked toward the bank. The rapid torrent of the river created a din that compelled guardsmen positioned on the banks to shout in order to be heard.
During the operation, Guardsmen from different shops were seamlessly integrated into a cohesive unit allowing residents a close look at the Soldiers and Airmen in action. "The flood conditions the way they are-it is good to get some assistance. The town can't keep up with everything and I am glad the Guard is here," said Brian Bernia of Blackstone.
The teams covered several sites and the running joke was that the mission would be accomplished after "One more."
Jane Woolford of Blackstone was grateful to see help arrive to help staunch the flow of water in her basement. "I want to thank the National Guard-they came to our rescue," she said.
Cots lined the drill shed floor side by side to accommodate the rotating shifts of guardsmen returning from the flood ravaged areas of Worcester and Bristol Counties. Although dry, the austere accommodations made sleep elusive and many Guardsmen performed the labor intensive duties on four or five hours of rest without complaint.
1st Lt. Jamie Stebbins of Easton, the officer in charge, was proud of his personnel, "Despite the sideways rain, knee deep water and challenging environment, our people accomplished the mission," said Stebbins. "We have motivated people eager to contribute despite the terrible conditions."
Staff Sgt. Karyn Brown of Blandford, was deployed to a team tasked with filling sandbags on day 2. "Barnes has done well. The folks I have been working with have been excellent. They have shown impressive dedication for a monotonous job," she observed. Despite the uncomfortable aspects of the mission she is proud to be involved. "As soon as we got the call, all of us dropped everything to be here."