Texas Guardsmen, Partners, Neighbors Rescue 1,000 From Floods

CYPRESS CREEK, Texas --

The Texas Army National Guard's 386th Engineer Battalion teamed up with Texas Task Force 1 and the Cypress Creek Fire Department yesterday to bring 1,000 Cypress Creek residents to safety from high-rising waters as heavy rains from Hurricane Harvey continued to fall.

Texas Guard rescues people from floods
Texas Army National Guard members from the 386th Engineer Battalion partner with first responders from Texas Task Force 1 and the Cypress Creek Fire Department to move residents from severely flooded neighborhoods to safety days after Hurricane Harvey hit south Texas, Aug. 29, 2017. Texas Army National Guard photo by Capt. Martha Nigrelle
Texas Guard rescues people from floods Texas Guard members help rescue at least 1,000 earlier this week
Texas Army National Guard members from the 386th Engineer Battalion partner with first responders from Texas Task Force 1 and the Cypress Creek Fire Department to move residents from severely flooded neighborhoods to safety days after Hurricane Harvey hit south Texas, Aug. 29, 2017. Texas Army National Guard photo by Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Water levels continued to rise to dangerous and historic levels, with some areas seeing more than 5 feet of flooding. The flooding here appeared to be the worst in a handful of residential subdivisions.

"Today was a day no one ever thought they'd see," said Pfc. Adelisa Fuentes, 386th Engineer Battalion. "There was water rising up to your hips, and the further the road went, the deeper the flood was."

Texas Guard members equipped with swift-water vehicles that can safely move through about 30 inches of water and took their trucks as far as they could before dismounting Task Force boats. First responders used the boats to go through neighborhoods and bring residents to safety.

"This is what we train for," said Texas Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Hamilton, dual-status commander for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts. "And we're proud to stand beside our civilian partners, first responders and volunteers to serve the citizens of Texas."

It isn't uncommon to find National Guard members working or training alongside emergency first responders – it's part of their mission.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Texas Guardsmen train year-round with partner first responders such as Texas Task Force 1 so that when a disaster occurs in Texas, they are prepared.

"This is Texans helping Texans – neighbors helping neighbors," Hamilton said. "While we don't want to have to put our training to the test during a tragedy, our citizen-guardsmen remain prepared to help save lives and property, when called."

The team of soldiers and first responders took on a new dynamic in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, as local residents also pitched in to help. Those owning boats or jet skis used them to assist in transporting victims to safety. Others brought water and helped transfer people and equipment onto the National Guard vehicles.

"Watching others bring victims to safety into our [vehicles] showed how much heart people really have and that they don't just depend on us to do the work alone," Fuentes said. "All help is worth a hand in a time of need."

One man even cooked a platter of chicken, wading into water 3 feet deep to feed soldiers and volunteers – a much welcomed surprise, as most appeared to work through lunch without stopping. Dogs, cats and even a lucky stuffed iguana were passed from boats to soldiers, followed by their owners and the residents of the neighborhoods suffering from severe flooding.

Varying Emotions

Emotions were varied, with some in high spirits and others seeming overwhelmed by their new reality. One rescued woman, an emergency medical technician, had spent the previous day rescuing people all over the city from flooding. "You never think you're going to be the victim," she said. "Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you."

After six hours of wading through deep waters and ensuring everyone who needed help was safe, soldiers and partner first responders began to pack up. Despite the long hours and poor weather conditions, the soldiers all appeared to be energized, focused and in good spirits.

"Nothing is more important to our guardsmen than the chance to serve their local community." Hamilton said. "Helping our neighbors when they need us most is the heart of the Guard, and why we choose to become citizen-soldiers and -airmen."