Approximately 75 Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers are on state active duty in Columbia County to fill and emplace sandbags where floodwaters threaten to overtop eastbound Interstate 90/94 near Wisconsin Highway 33.
Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general ordered Soldiers from the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s Portage, Wisconsin-based 132nd Brigade Support Battalion and the Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin-based 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery to Columbia County the afternoon of Sept. 2 where they will work overnight in support of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to emplace sandbags in advance of an expected rise in floodwaters at a low spot along a nearly mile-long stretch of interstate.
The Guard expects to emplace approximately 16,000 sandbags by 6 a.m. Sept. 3 in hopes of preventing flooding on the highway and lane closures on the interstate.
The Wisconsin National Guard has conducted a number of sandbag missions throughout the state in the past two weeks since torrential rain began falling across large swaths of southern Wisconsin. The Guard concluded a sandbag mission in Dane CountyAug. 29, where as many as 85 National Guard troops assisted civil authorities in Monona and Madison emplace nearly 7,400 meters of sandbags. Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard troops have transported more than 800,000 empty sandbags throughout the state to staging areas to ensure they were in position for local municipalities to use since the operation began. The Guard also assisted authorities with sandbagging missions in North Freedom and Baraboo in Sauk CountyAug. 30.
Multiple rain events soaked the state over the past two weeks causing local lakes and waterways to swell with floodwaters. Gov. Scott Walker signed Executive Order 303 declaring a state of emergency for Dane County last week, which authorizes the adjutant general to call elements of the National Guard to state active duty, as he deems necessary. The governor subsequently signed Executive Order 306, which expanded the state of emergency declaration to cover the entire state after additional heavy rains impacted the state this week.The state emergency operations center remains at an elevated level, and officials with Wisconsin Emergency Management are urging citizens affected by the flooding to contact 2-1-1 to report damage to residences. For the latest information on the flood response, visit www.ready.wi.gov. Assisting civil authorities in times of emergency is one of the National Guard’s core missions. The National Guard fulfills a unique dual-mission as both the primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force, but also as the first military responder here in the state during times of emergency. Last fall, the Wisconsin National Guard deployed Soldiers and Airmen to Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islandsto assist with hurricane recovery efforts, and Soldiers responded on multiple occasions to flooding last summer in Monroe Countyand Burlington, Wisconsin.The Wisconsin National Guard simultaneouslyremains heavily engaged fulfilling its federal mission as the primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force. More than 350 Soldiers from the Milwaukee-based 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillerydeployed to the Middle East this summer and more than 25 Soldiers from the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade’s Military Engagement Teamdeployed to the Middle East in March. Meanwhile, a team of Soldiers from the 112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment deployedto U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in March to provide public affairs support there. Wisconsin Army National Guard aviators from Detachment 5, 641st Aviationdeployed to Afghanistan earlier this spring, and Soldiers from the 248th Aviation Support Battaliondeployed to the Middle East last September. Approximately 85 Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 147th Aviationreturned from a nine-month deployment to the Middle East in January, and 35 Soldiers from West Bend’s Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviationreturned from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan in November.
Also in November, approximately 270 Airmen from the 115th Fighter Wingreturned to Madison from a deployment to Korea, and more than 100 Airmen from the 128th Air Control Squadronat Volk Field returned from Southwest Asia. Approximately 70 Airmen from the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee are in the midst of deployments worldwide, and other Airmen from the 128th deployed earlier in the fall as well.