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Guardsmen use civilan skills to spot flood safety risks

LANDER, Wyo. -- A dozen Wyoming National Guardsmen are using their civilian skills and experiences to identify safety concerns with flood mitigation efforts in Fremont County, Wyo., and ensure the safety of residents, volunteers and military alike.

These Soldiers and Airmen took on the duties as safety officers under the supervision of Dave Gieble, the Fremont County Flood 2010 incident command safety officer.

"Our principal issue is to take care of people and property," said Gieble, who is based at incident command center, in Lander. The safety officers report back to him regarding anything unsafe.

The safety officers make sure the heavy equipment works safely, they check pillars underneath bridges, and determine if sandbags will hold if the water rises to hazardous conditions, said Sgt. Richard Chief, of Lodge Grass, Mont., assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 300th Field Artillery.

Chief said he draws from his experiences as a police officer for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, on the Wind River Indian Reservation, in Fremont County, where he worked for a year and a half. "It helps me on the mission since I know the location really well, I don't need a GPS," he said, noting that much of the area and victims dealing with floods are on reservation.

"I'm very pleased with the people they've assigned to me," said Gieble. "They're approaching their job with a sensitivity I like to see in a line officer."

According to Gieble, the Guardsmen's civilian jobs and job training help cut down the time it took to train them as safety officers.

Training includes introducing Soldiers to the local area. In some cases, that training is also cut short. Spc. Andrew Schatza is from Riverton, Wyo., a city on the edge of the flooded area. The 2-300th Field Artillery Soldier said they make sure to check on residents, daily, who are dealing with possible flood waters, or have decided to ride out the floods in their homes.

The safety officers' duties range from checking on the water quality and quantity in the area and verifying escape routes in case of evacuations, said Chief.

For Schatza, his civilian experience with Source Gas Company, in Riverton, helped him to identify concerns not previously addressed.

"My concern was that the gas company wasn't aware of the extent of the flood, so I wanted to make sure they were on the same page (as the incident command center)," said Schatza "And that goes for all the utilities." He said the gas company responded promptly to the issues. "Any of the concerns I've had have gone to the top and been taken care of."