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Mark Foley part of S.D. National Guard flood relief

Getting to their assigned watch of levee stretches ... The South Dakota Army National Guard patrolled the levees on foot. Philip’s Mark Foley said, “‘Breach’ is not a word you want to use over the radio.” Courtesy photos

This summer's flooding of the Missouri River has caused damage to property and displaced residents, mostly in the Pierre, Fort Pierre and Dakota Dunes areas. The South Dakota National Guard was called out to assist with the coordination of building levees, with the security of property and with maintaining the levees.

Philip's Mark Foley was one of the guardsmen called to be on duty during the ordeal. A sergeant in the South Dakota Army National Guard, his specific duties during this mission were as a sergeant of the guard, as a supervisor, first in charge of traffic control points and access points, then later in charge of patroling the levees.

From July 3 through July 18, he was on full-time duty, working in 12-hour shifts in a crew of 40 guardsmen. He and many of the others stayed in dormitories at the University of South Dakota. They were based out of a command post in Dakota Dunes.

Foley said that the incident command center would have filled the parking lot of the Philip High School. "Everything was hopping and popping," said Foley, adding that it was downsized quite a lot by the time his stay was over.

Along with another sergeant, Foley coordinated the change over of shifts. Trucks were hauling in dirt to be used in the construction of levees. "(We) tried to control the trucks, where they didn't run into each other," said Foley. Since civilians had been evacuated from many areas, no civilian traffic was allowed. Loaded trucks had priority over empty trucks.

"Most of those who drove truck on a regular basis did not have a problem with us," said Foley. "They got paid by the load. The more you held them up, the more upset they got."

It took the two sergeants approximately an hour and a half to check the different traffic stops, then repeating the route. They also delivered items such as drinking water, ice and bug spray. "We were fairly close to the water, but didn't feel threatened. Thank goodness most of the time it was less than 90 degrees."

"We were actually undermanned when we first got down there," said Foley. "Finally got the personnel and shortly later had to cut people back. When the levees were established, we were there in case. You don't want to cut back too soon." He said that support came from federal customs, immigration and border patrol personnel.

"For us, all the traffic control was over once we started working levees," he said. Foley said that they patroled to make sure there were no leaks and that the pumps had to be overseen. The actual patrols were done on foot, about a half mile walk for two guardsmen, three times in a shift. It was still plenty warm out, he said. Guardsmen wore life vests and reflective vests. Foley added, " 'Breech' is not a word you want to use over the radio!"

"A lot of the problems they have now is the ground is so soaked and saturated it (the water) is starting to come up on the other side of the levees," said Foley.