Repairs in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula ‘Good as Done’

Story by Maj. Corissa Barton


The Michigan Army National Guard’s 107th and 507th Engineer Battalions have diligently worked to complete a series of repairs in the flood battered city of Houghton, Mich.  On June 17, heavy rains in the area caused half of the city streets to be impassable.  More than 10 inches of rain fell within 24 hours.  Washouts, mud slides, and sink holes spread throughout the city.

Five days into the mission, the companies from Kingsford, Montague, Sault Ste. Marie, and Calumet, have already moved more than 900 loads of dirt and rocks to fill culverts and holes.  The worst hit area, Cole’s Creek, lost a few hundred feet of road after being washed away by a combination of the torrential downpours and mudslides.  The sink hole caused the creek itself to reroute down the middle of what used to be the road.

“We had to clear debris and reroute the creek back to its original path, then we were able to start the backfill of the mine rock and replacing culverts.  Then we added maintenance gravel to get the road back to grade,” said Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Miller, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Cole’s Creek site.

The Soldiers are all on State Active Duty orders following Governor Rick Snyder’s emergency declaration allowing for all state resources, including the Michigan National Guard, to provide equipment and personnel to aid in the repair of the damaged roads.  The mission begins with ten-day orders but can be extended until mission completion.

“I can barely get the guys to stop.  They want to get this finished and help the residents nearby get back to normal as soon as possible,” said Miller.

More than 70 Soldiers from the battalions volunteered for the mission.  Spec. Eric Gallentine, a 92A logistics specialist with the 1437th Engineer Company, has been on the ground since day one.

“I wanted to help out and do what I can.  They asked for operators and I said I’d do anything to help,” said Gallentine.

Many of the engineers working to repair the Houghton roads were on hand to provide support in Gogebic County in 2016 when heavy rains caused a massive sinkhole destroying the main entry and exit points for the town.


“We have continued learning and growing and working since the Gogebic response.  A lot of our Soldiers have been certified on multiple pieces of equipment to ensure the best coverage,” said Jake Pfiester, the project manager for the Houghton response.

The units converged on Houghton on June 20 with heavy equipment including: 10 and 20-ton dump trucks, bulldozers, front-end loaders and excavators.

Despite the majority of the Soldiers coming straight from their annual training periods, many of them felt like it was necessary to provide their services.

“The circumstances are horrible but it’s good to be able to help out our state and communities.  Some of the guys are making less here than they would in their full time jobs but they just wanted to help,” said Miller.

Many of the Engineers will follow on to another annual training period in Poland where they will contribute to road grading and other construction projects that build ally relationships in addition to physical modifications. The annual training is especially meaningful this year as the Michigan National Guard celebrates a 25-year State Partnership with Latvia, a Baltic neighbor to Poland. Building relationships with our Baltic allies helps to protect personal freedoms and foster developing democratic governments in the region.


About the Michigan National Guard


The Michigan National Guard’s 10,000 Soldiers and Airmen stand ready to serve both state and nation. With operations at three airfields, two major training bases and more than 40 armories around the state, Michigan National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are ready to provide a wide-range of disaster response and other support to civil authorities, while maintaining a high degree of combat readiness.  For more information about the Michigan National Guard check out the Michigan National Guard website, or call the Michigan Army National Guard recruiting office at 1-888-906-1636.  The Michigan Air National Guard Web address is or 1-800-864-6264

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