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Warriors of the North dedicate time, energy to flood preparations

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Emergency preparations began when Govs. John Hoeven, North Dakota, and Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota, declared a state of emergency in the Red River Valley after waters began rising at a record rate. 

Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds began working around the clock to mitigate flood damage throughout the region, especially in the Fargo, N.D., area. Among the volunteers were more than 100 Warriors of the North, who donned old uniforms and boots, willing to do whatever it took to help communities prepare for the impending flood. 

"The men and women of Grand Forks Air Force Base have joined the local Red River Valley community in volunteering to support flood protection efforts," said Col. John Quinn, 319th Air Refueling Wing vice commander. "We are maintaining our mission capability while simultaneously allowing Airmen to be released from their duty sections to volunteer to support flood protection efforts. 

"These teammates are demonstrating how Grand Forks Air Force Base personnel are 'all in' in their dedication to preserve and protect this community in its time of need," said Colonel Quinn. 

Col. John Michel, 319 ARW commander, implemented a community involvement initiative September 2008 in which Airmen are authorized an excused absence from their units once a month to volunteer in the Grand Cities. Since the start of the program, Airmen from around the wing have reached out to the local community more than ever, and preparing for a natural disaster seems to fuel the desire to help. 

Volunteers and emergency response organizers are working to protect businesses and homes, as well as reduce or eliminate safety hazards and loss of lives. 

"It's great to see all these people here," said Rich Kaul, a Fargo, N.D., homeowner, smiling at the number of volunteers, including eight Warriors of the North, as they moved sandbags through a chain of arms to their destination on his property. "It's hard to believe all these people come out here for nothing but a sandwich and a lot of hard work." 

Like many natural disasters, preparing for the looming saturation seems to bring people together, whether homeowner and volunteer or civilian and military. 

"The commitment the base has to community involvement is part of the second-mile leadership Colonel Michel talks about," commented Airman 1st Class Spencer Jungclaus, a volunteer from the 319th Operations Support Squadron. "It means a lot to help a community that helped the base through mission transitions and everything else." 

Airmen started arriving at volunteer hubs throughout the region over the weekend of March 21, and a more concerted effort has started among base volunteers. Droves of volunteers have adjusted their schedules to tend to the areas in danger of flooding, and base members not actively involved in community sandbagging efforts are standing by on base to support other agencies who are involved with the preparation and recovery stages of natural disasters. 

"The base's Emergency Operation Center is poised to react to any additional tasking that the 319 ARW may receive," added Colonel Quinn. "We are ready to integrate and synchronize with all national, state and local relief efforts."