The Central Florida town of Bartow seems to be in the middle of Mother Nature's bulls-eye this year. Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne have all passed through this small town on their way through the state. Those storms had not threatened the town's water supply until now. The nearby Peace River has flooded nearly a mile over its banks and that flooding threatened a lift station that forwards contaminated water to the sewage treatment facility for Bartow.
When Bartow city officials saw the crisis coming, they asked the state for help. In response, the state sent eight members of the Florida Air National Guard's 202nd Red Horse Squadron, a civil engineering unit based at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center. Once dispatched, the Airmen began building a hill around the lift station and pump out the water around it.
The Red Horse Squadron used 3,600 cubic yards of dirt, provided by Falcon Contracting of Bartow, to make the hill with two bulldozers, an excavator and a front-end loader. The team completed the hill and began pumping water away from the lift station's electrical transformer.
“We put a cork in the Peace River,” said Staff Sgt. Haywood Brown, a heavy equipment operator with the Red Horse Squadron.
The completed task ensured clean water would continue for about 6,500 customers. The task was nothing new for the Airmen who have been on state active duty since Aug. 13. Since the four hurricanes that pummeled the state, the squadron has deployed in West Palm Beach, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, Bradford County, Vero Beach and Pensacola. Many of their missions have been clearing roads, removing debris from airports and fixing some buildings. In Pensacola, they focused on clearing and repairing schools.
The Red Horse Squadron also supported the Global War on Terror last year; sending Airmen to Afghanistan, Iraq, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and filled positions for deployed active duty Air Force members at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The squadron rebuilt the runway at Baghdad International Airport after coalition forces secured it. “You really made a difference in the town here,” says Brig. Gen. Michael Fleming, as he visited the work site thanking the Airmen for their efforts.