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Engineers from the Wisconsin Army National Guard completed their debris removal mission in the Town of Portland, Wisconsin, July 30 and moved onto the Town of Jefferson Monday where they will conduct a similar mission.

Twenty Soldiers from the Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin-based 229th Engineer Company and the Onalaska, Wisconsin-based Company B, 173rd Brigade Engineer Battalion began cleaning up flood debris in Monroe County July 28 after local authorities requested their assistance.

The engineers brought heavy military engineering equipment including skid steers, 10-ton dump trucks, excavators and additional equipment to assist with debris removal efforts which included clearing dirt, clay, top soil, rock and boulders from roadways and shoulders. Their efforts helped local authorities restore full road access to areas affected by the flooding that soaked the area in mid-July.

Now they will perform the same mission in Jefferson over the course of the next few days where local authorities requested their assistance removing brush and downed trees.

In Portland, the Soldiers cleared more than 50 loads of debris from four different sites.

“This is why I joined the National Guard – to help the community,” said 1st Lt. Johnathon Gause, a platoon leader with Company B, 173rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, and the officer-in-charge of the mission. “I think one of the great things about the Guard versus the other components is the ability to help out our neighbors and the guys we live with in our state.”

Gause said the mission to support civil authorities was a win-win, because while the community receives much-needed assistance, the Soldiers get real-world, hands-on experience in their field that cannot be replicated in a training environment.

“The training value that comes from operating real-world missions is probably ten times better than the training value we could get in an engineer dig site out at Fort McCoy,” he said. “Operating in our secondary mission of state support is phenomenal to give the guys the experience of doing this sort of operation.”

The National Guard trains to fulfill its unique dual mission as Wisconsin’s first military responder while simultaneously serving as the primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force.

Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency in Monroe County and 16 other counties across the state July 21, which authorizes Wisconsin’s Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar to employ the National Guard to assist local authorities as needed.

Airmen from the Wisconsin Air National Guard delivered 10,000 sandbags to Trempealeau County July 21 in advance of heavy rains forecasted for the area, and now Soldiers are on duty in Monroe County where they are available to assist local communities as needed.