72TES volunteers help desperate community

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Heying
  • 72d Test and Evaluation Squadron
Residents of small towns in Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri were bracing for the worst flooding along the Missouri River in more than a decade when six members of the 72d Test and Evaluation Squadron, answered a distress call from one of those communities earlier this month. 

The volunteers from the 72d responded without hesitation to Rocheport, Missouri's cry for help along with approximately 90 other good Samaritans. The task at hand was to build a sandbag levee in an area that had received as much as 8 inches of rain in a 24-hour period during weekend thunderstorms. 

Rocheport was in need of help because the Missouri River system was approaching record levels that were threatening to flood many of its homes. If the small town of 208 residents flooded, hundreds of thousands of dollars would be lost to property damage, not to mention the devastating loss of irreplaceable sentimental items. 

Experts predicted that an estimated 15,000, 30-50 pound sandbags would be needed to hold back the rising waters. This sandbag levee was used to guard against a river crest of 34 feet which was 13 feet above flood stage. 

Volunteers raced against the clock, and the rising water levels to complete this monumental task in just three days, a mere 24 hours prior to the rivers crest. 

"This was more than just a wall of sandbags," said Master Sgt. Wesley Howard, 72 TES. "This is a testament of the American spirit, brother helping brother in a time of need." 

Helping Sgt. Howard was Master Sgt. Dave Burges, Tech. Sgt. Jeramie Hill and Staff Sergeants Heying, Rachel Ruminski, and John Kowalczyk, who all labored tirelessly in their efforts to save this small Missouri community. 

When asked, all the volunteers said, "We are sore and tired, but proud to be able help this small community when it mattered most." 

Their efforts were highly regarded by the local leadership of the town. 

"I was impressed by the quick military response," said Rocheport Mayor Brett Dufur, who was awed by relief efforts and response of the nearby military unit. "The call went out and was immediately answered by the Airmen of Whiteman AFB. 

"I want to convey on behalf of all the residents of Rocheport a sincere thank you to the members of the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron for the support they provided in our hour of need," he said. 

"We would've never been able to finish the levee in time if it weren't for the selfless acts of so many volunteers."