Story by Master Sgt. David Eichaker
MIDLAND, Mich.—The Michigan National Guard continues to play a critical role in local communities as it recently responded to the floods in northern Michigan as the Edenville and Sanford Dams have been breached. The Michigan State Police requested the Guard units to provide assistance evacuating Midland area residents.
“Right now we have three units staged in various parts of Midland,” said Army Maj. A.J. Przybyla, officer in charge, 1st Battalion, 125th Infantry Battalion, Michigan Army National Guard. “We have 13 vehicles spread out in between the districts and they’re there to support operations to pick up personnel that are stranded and bring them to their residence or up to Midland High School.”
“Overall, we have more than 130 Soldiers on ground supporting or prepared to support the current mission,” said Przybyla.
The state’s response is multi-faceted as various organizations are coming together for this crisis.
“The Incident Management Team (IMT) is made up of police and firefighters throughout the county with leaders and specialists in different areas such as plans and communications,” said Steve McGee, a fire chief in Oakland County, Michigan. “When someone is stranded or having a problem, they call 9-1-1 and anything water related, we will alert a division for that rescue and that is where the National Guard comes into play.”
The National Guard’s motto, Always Ready, Always There held true as more than 130 Soldiers with specialized vehicles began to mobilize almost immediately as the dams were breached.
“I heard about the flooding about 30 minutes after the first dam collapsed,” said Private First Class Lydia Humphrey, 1073rd Maintenance Company, Michigan Army National Guard. “I received a call from my command around 11 p.m. last night to come in right away and have been working since.”
The area has received a lot of rainfall over the past couple of days and evacuation warnings have been issued from community leaders resulting in minimal injuries.
“A lot of the residents took the advice and evacuated when they had time,” said Przybyla. “Because of this, we have had just over 10 dispatches for service and no more than 20 rescues at this point, which is great.”
As with any rescue, not all are routine. The Guard helps families, which isn’t necessarily limited to people. Humphrey talks about her first mission.
“We received a call from dispatch to assist a family in bringing them to the high school,” she said. “One of the residents was in a wheelchair and had two dogs, so that required additional help.”
“I love the idea that I can do things like this to help my community and this is exactly what I signed up for and I love it,” said Humphrey.