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Area soldiers head east to help out

Press Photo by Beth Wischmeyer Members of the 816th Engineer Company listen as Capt. Ann Mutzenberger briefs the group in the Dickinson Armory Wednesday. The group will be going to Bismarck to help with flood efforts. The company is expected to be in Bismarck a minimum of seven days.1 / 2
Press Photo by Beth Wischmeyer Soldiers of the 816th Engineer Company board a bus outside of the Dickinson Armory Wednesday. The company headed to Bismarck last night to help with flood efforts.2 / 2

About 85 soldiers of the North Dakota National Guard Dickinson 816th Engineering Company headed to Bismarck last night to help flood operations.

Sgt. 1st Class Brian Schmoker of the National Guard Dickinson Armory, said soldiers in the company were notified Tuesday evening around 9 p.m. to report to the armory yesterday.

"We had some of the soldiers that belong to this unit and live in Bismarck and went on duty Tuesday," Schmoker said.

Two buses left yesterday afternoon carrying the soldiers, while National Guard vehicles carried equipment such as cots.

Schmoker said efforts were taken to monitor road conditions from Dickinson to Bismarck to ensure the safety of the soldiers.

"When we called them in, that was part of what we told them is whenever they can arrive at the unit safely," Schmoker said. "We don't want to be part of the problem; we're the solution to the problem."

Bismarck officials have told the company they should be prepared for a minimum of seven days, but Schmoker said the company will be there "bottom line until it's over".

If needed, members of the company could help with evacuation and any flood preparations necessary, he added.

Capt. Ann Mutzenberger, company commander for the 816 said she knows of one soldier in the company who has a house in Bismarck and is not sure if it is flooded or not.

Most of the equipment needed by the company went ahead to Bismarck Tuesday night, she added.

"I'm glad to be here and glad to be a part of this," Mutzenberger said. "I know everyone's appreciative of the employers support as well as the support of spouses and families."

Mutzenberger said she feels the soldiers are excited and eager to go and help where they are needed, which is why many, she feels joined: To help others.

Spc. Cole Salinas of Dickinson said he is excited to go help as much as he can.

"This is why I joined," Salinas said. "I'm just looking forward to doing my part."

Schmoker said the guard has already been lending a helping hand.

"The guard as a whole has been doing a lot of work in the Fargo area," Schmoker said. "The unit here in Dickinson and Williston were basically held in reserve to deal with any issues that had arrived."

The Williston 818th Engineering Company also was expected to arrive in Bismarck yesterday.

1st Lt. Dan Murphy, public information officer for the NDNG, who is in Bismarck, said the flood situation is looking bleak, but people are lending a helping hand.

"Things are pretty tough honestly," Murphy said. "We'll keep doing everything we can until we can get the ice flowing. Between sandbagging, moving sandbags and just the shear manpower, then there's the spirit of volunteerism, that's really what's going on right now."

All in all, Schmoker said the company is there to help in whatever way they can.

"At 9 o'clock Tuesday night I had to call everyone and tell them to come in, and at 9 o'clock tonight (Wednesday) we'll be there and already working," Schmoker said. "We're here to protect life and the greater good."