Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - National Guard
National Guard proving vital in battle against flood waters
Vincennes Sun-Commercial (IN) - January 15, 2005
Author/Byline: JENNIFER EARLES, staff writer
More than 120 National Guard troops have been working out of Vincennes the past week, filling and placing sandbags where needed
near the Wabash and White rivers.
Starting Monday some of those troops will have a new assignment - patrolling the levee along the Wabash as the river is predicted to
reach its highest level in more than half a century.
Troops have been living at the National Guard Armory, 1515 Emison Ave., and at Adams Coliseum on North Seventh Street while
undertaking their mission here in the county.
At the Armory at Friday soldiers coming off their 12-hour assignments slept on cots, resting up for their next assignment, whatever that
may be - either filling more sandbags, hauling them to needed locations, or patrolling the levee.
"Most the guys know the mission is a necessity," said 1st Lt. Tom Merkley, a member of the guard since 1995. "It has been pretty rough
for them, but they like completing their assignments.
"But this is the second time they have dealt with sand in a year."
Merkley served with the local troops for 18 months in the Middle East. The soldiers returned to Indiana February 2004. Unlike their
mission in Iraq, the team will return to their families once this state-directed assignment is complete.
"We allowed guys with wives and families to visit home," said Staff Sgt. Brad Mason, Sullivan. "But for the most part, we're dedicated to
completing our assignment."
Merkley planned and directed the sandbagging operation. The Indiana Department of Transportation provided the location, sand and
heavy equipment, while the National Guard provided the manpower and transportation of the equipment to each site.
"The last time I was called to perform a state mission was during the 1996 blizzard in Dubois and Orange counties," Merkley said. "Some
of the other men were sent to the Tell City flood of 1997."
Troops from armories as far away as Indianapolis have been assigned to work in the county, and area officials are glad to have had their
help during this crisis.
John Streeter, Knox County director of emergency management agency, said, "Anytime you give the National Guard a job, they
accomplish it no matter what it takes.
"They are very self sufficient."
Mason worked with the team to set sandbags in Hazleton, a site of some of the worst flooding. "It was pretty bad in Hazleton," he said.
"The rain forced the levee walls, which broke at one point."
Mason also said the non-stop rain and decreasing temperatures have made conditions harder for his staff, but it gave them a chance to
help the community.
"This is a nice experience for me," he said. "It gives us a look at the whole picture, helping people on an international and now a more
Mason, who also served for 18 months with the Vincennes troops overseas, said the guard's current assignment is also a learning
"As a staff sergeant, it gives me a chance to gain experience handling the guys," he said.
The troops placed sandbags near the Wabash River, around the George Rogers Clark Memorial, and other city buildings.
"I was told to help the city, but when people told me they needed sandbags for their flooded basements, I helped them out," Mason said.
"Helping people is what the military is all about."
Like the other troops, Mason is a part-time soldier - or at least he's supposed to be. He and other troops have been spending a lot of their
time on active duty the last couple of years.
Mason works at the Toyota plant in Princeton and said his managers are flexible when he is called to duty.
Copyright: Copyright 2005 Vincennes Sun-Commercial