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Volunteers and Guard personnel work to prep for additional flooding

LANDER, Wyo. -- Local volunteers and Wyoming National Guard personnel recently teamed up in Fremont County, Wyo., to assist with flood relief efforts, filling sandbags at locations around the county.

Flooding rivers, fueled by runoffs from mountain snow packs, and recent precipitation, began June 5. The Wyoming National Guard was activated June 7 and close to 400 Guardsmen have arrived as the flood hits its second week.

A request for aid appeared at 6:38 p.m. Sunday night, June 13, on the Landertalk.com Web site and on the Fremont County Flood 2010 Incident Command's Facebook page. Volunteers were asked to help fill sandbags to increase the reserves before the next round of flooding began, and to have a chance to interact with the Soldiers and Airmen dispatched to help them. Residents made their way to the sandpits in family groups, as couples, or by themselves.

"When the call came out over the Internet, it was my youngest who said, 'Can we go?'" said Tina Wilkinson, resident of Lander and mother of two young girls, also helping the cause. "It was a no brainer."

"(Working with the Soldiers) is fun because you get to interact with people," said 8-year-old Elise Wilkinson.

More than 31,000 volunteer hours have been recorded, said Mavis Biastoch, finance section chief for the incident command center.

"But I'm estimating there's another 20,000 more (volunteer hours) that haven't been recorded," said Biastoch. The volunteers range from the county fire departments; residents of Lander, Hudson, and Riverton; and the Arapahoe and Shoshoni tribes, she said.

Sgt. Eric Otero, of Guernsey, Wyo., assigned to A Company, 960th Brigade Support Battalion, said the volunteers have all been very helpful and add another dimension to the work force.

"It's pretty neat seeing the support we've gotten and (the volunteers) being an active part of the mission," Otero said.

Pfc. Colten Simcheck, 2nd Battalion, 300 Field Artillery, helps Tina Wilkinson, a resident of Fremont County, carry sandbags to the loading pile. Flooding in Fremont County began June 5. Close to 400 Wyoming Army and Air National Guard personnel have been activated to assist with mitigation efforts since June 7. (Photo by Spc. Courtney Gearhart, public affairs specialist, Wyoming National Guard Joint Task Force)

The volunteers all had a good attitude and worked hard, said Sgt. James Williams, of Cheyenne, Wyo., assigned to the 153rd Command and Control Squadron. The Guardsmen needed to use the sandbags made by the volunteers to finish a load.

"Everything we do in advance is going to be one less thing to do when we don't have time," said Williams.

"When we saw other people getting hit, it was hard," said Thomas Wilkinson, of Lander.

Tina Wilkinson said her family was not in danger of being flooded, but still wanted to help; noting people in small towns care about, and take care of each other.

Those wanting more information about the flood can visit the official government site at http://www.facebook.com/fremontcountyflood2010.