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Area Guardsmen help flood-devastated Coloradans

Where heavy equipment won't fit, Guardsmen use muscle.


For anyone who watched the floods that were happening in northern Colorado on television a few weeks ago, the scenes looked horrific. Rivers out of their banks, creating new channels, houses being swept away and people in isolated communities completely cut off from the outside world.

But to be there, to see the destruction, is a different experience entirely. Ask Staff Sgt. Troy Anderson of Price and he will tell you.

Johnson and eight others from the 624th Engineering Company based in Carbon County got orders to go and help in rebuilding a road that led from Estes Park to Lyons, Colo. The Iraq War veteran saw things he couldn't believe.

"When we first arrived it was very sketchy," he said. "Highway 36 was wiped out. In some places the river had moved 100 feet out of its channel and widened by 30 feet. There literally was no Highway 36 left."

The units orders were for them to work from Oct. 3 to Oct. 19, and work they did.

"We were ordered to build a combat road," he said. And what they found when they arrived fit; the area appeared kind of like a combat zone. "We had to build that road from scratch."

Anderson said what he saw was comparable to what Utahns in the St. George area experienced a few years ago when a flood there took houses out. The difference in Colorado is that it occurred over a much wider area and was a lot more inclusive.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) was in charge of all the projects and the 1457th Engineering Battalion had professional engineers there. Overall there were 100 soldiers from Utah working on the projects.

"Near Lyons (farther down the mountains) a lot of the cleanup had been done but when we got to Estes Park, there was a lot of debris still there," said Anderson. "Some peoples houses were totally wiped out."

As they built the road they found a lot of interesting things too. One of the things they found were vehicles that had washed down the river with debris and huge boulders that had been pushed down the river by the force of the water."

"We pulled vehicles out of the river that looked like they had already gone through recycling," he said. "They were totally crushed. It was amazing how much material was moved by the floods."

Many of the areas that received the downpour was heavily forested and out of those wooded areas came thousands of pieces of trees and even entire trees. The river channel was clogged with them.

"We pulled out large trees and they just couldn't be loaded in dump trucks and hauled away," he stated. "We had to get out the chains saws and cut them up."

The project was just a lot of difficult work. But their efforts weren't unappreciated either.

"Locals kept stopping by and giving us food, pizza, Gatorade, all kinds of things," he said. "They even offered us bottled water but we had plenty of water. They were so thankful we were there and they showed it."

It seems in these modern days of wars that America is involved in all over the world that that is all the National Guard has been doing. But these kinds of projects, helping out in disasters, helping people here at home, is what the guard is all about. And these Guardsmen understand their missions and are willing to serve.

"It was just a lot of hard physical labor, but if they called me up I would do it all over again," concluded Anderson.

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