The Nebraska Army National Guard has “put boots on the ground” to help with the flood recovery efforts in Niobrara.
Twenty soldiers from the 1/134th Calvary Squadron, based out of Mead, headed to the community on Sunday. Two of the soldiers are from Knox County—Staff Sgt. Matthew Miller of Bloomfield and SPC Austin Filips of Crofton.
According to 1st Lt. Christina Lemburg, the soldiers have been busy working at traffic checkpoints and helping the community with clean up efforts since their arrival.
“Right now, we’re doing some checkpoints, basically traffic control. We’re letting the workers in and trying to keep the onlookers out,” Lemburg said. “And then when they’re off-shift, they help out with different town missions, so yesterday they were helping roll the hoses from filling the water towers. Today, they were helping clear out the county yard and a little bit of the state yard. We’ve put it out there that if certain places need help, just come down here and ask for it.”
There are sleeping cots set up for the soldiers in the old gym of the Niobrara Public School.
“This school is lovely and we’ve got hot showers,” Lemburg said. “Hot water, which is never a thing. There’s wifi here, there’s a gym here, so this is a really great location for us to stay.”
Assistance from the National Guard was requested through the Nebraska Department of Transportation, and Tony Tschirren, NDOT maintenance superintendent, said their help has been instrumental.
“We were flagging at four locations, so by these soldiers coming in, that frees up eight people for me to go out and do what we need to do,” Tschirren said. “That might not seem like a lot, but in a situation like this, eight guys is huge, especially when nobody has had any sleep for so many days.”
Miller said he thinks squadron leaders knew they would be activated due to the widespread disaster, and “all of these soldiers volunteered to come.”
“I was actually on my way to go down to meet where my unit is and they told me to stay home because I was going to go up here,” he said.
When Miller got to Niobrara, he was in awe, but he was not as surprised as the other soldiers.
“The size of the ice chunks shocked me,” he said. “And they were just everywhere. I saw a lot of videos on Facebook before I got here so I was a little bit prepared, but I know a lot of our soldiers were really shocked when they drove through Hwy. 14 in that area by the damage.”
Lemburg said the soldiers have put in a lot of hard work in the Niobrara area.
“They’re doing really well out here and I haven’t heard nary a complaint,” she said.
Lemburg said the community has been very helpful and appreciative during their stay. The duration of their stay is still unknown.
“Everybody has been really great, asking, ‘What do you guys need?’ We’re getting cookies, towels, so it’s definitely a give and take,” she said. “Everybody just asking, ‘How can we help you, help us kind of a thing?’ Some people at the checkpoints, ‘Hey, I have to drive past here every day, do you need some coffee, do you have something we can bring you?’ It’s just really acceptance and community. It’s awesome.”