CAMP DENALI, Alaska (1/10/12) - Alaska National Guard members arrived in Cordova Sunday afternoon to help the citizens in this small Alaska town dig out from a series of winter storms.
Termed Operation Deep Dig, 57 Alaska National Guardsmen arrived on the state's ferry system with shovels in hand ready to assist but keeping safety the number one priority according to Alaska Army National Guard Capt. Chad Ausel, commander, 761st Military Police Company.
"As soon as we got here, we identified a priority list for safety and familiarization training with Cordova. We asked for a subject matter expert on how they've cleared snow here safely and then completed training on harnesses, ropes and knots to make sure the Guardsmen are trained to do the mission safely," Ausel said.
With training complete, Ausel is now focused on getting his Soldiers out in the community today to assist wherever they're needed.
"We have everything staged, equipment ready and the Soldiers are ready to go," Ausel said. "The city officials identified three locations this morning, and we're going to stay in squads to clear those areas."
With more snow and rain on the way, the Alaska National Guard has arrived at a crucial time to assist before things potentially get worse.
"We are concerned about heavy and wet snow on roofs," said Allen Marquette, public information officer with the city of Cordova. "Some structures have already collapsed. We are trying to get those prioritized and shoveled off and assist residents in anticipation of the new snow and rain that's coming."
Mayor Jim Kallander of Cordova also commented on the response to his community and how pleased he is with the assistance the City of Cordova has received from the state.
"I can't say how impressed I am with the homeland security response, the governor's office response and now the National Guard is stepping up to the plate," Kallander said. "It's exactly what we needed."
As the first military responder in all domestic emergencies, the Guard is focused on doing everything it can to help the community, and according to Ausel, Guard members will stay as long as they're needed.
"We hope to leave Cordova in a better situation," Ausel said. "If that means staying here until the next snow storm goes through, then we will. I'm very proud of my Soldiers and the job they've done so far. They are working with a sense of urgency and are very proud to serve the community down here. This is why they signed up to serve in the National Guard."