Photo Information

Marines and sailors of 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit stack sand bags to reinforce the levees June 9, in Elnora, Ind. Local authorities in Elnora requested the 26th MEU to provide support to reinforce the levees from flooding of the White River.

Photo by Cpl. Jason D. Mills

Marines, Ind. Nat'l Guard fight back storm waters, help save local town

11 Jun 2008 | Cpl. Jason D. Mills 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Approximately 140 Marines and sailors from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit were called into action here after state and local agencies requested their assistance to fortify a levee in imminent danger of being overrun by the floodwaters which have devastated the area.

The Marines, who were later joined by soldiers from the Indiana National Guard, prisoners incarcerated at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Carlisle Ind., townspeople, Mennonites, Amish farmers and local volunteers reinforced nearly a mile of levee in Elnora, Ind.

After receiving the word to mobilize, the Marines rushed out to Elnora via CH-53E Super Stallion and CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters and began filling sandbags and building and reinforcing levees shortly after arriving at 3 a.m. and continued their efforts until 5 p.m. when they were called off due to more thunderstorms in the area.

The Marines worked with a feverish determination throughout the night and into the morning, most of the time with smiles on their faces, because they had the knowledge they were doing something of real good for those they are sworn to serve.

“It’s good to know that we can go out there and help these people, and I think it’s going to be a real rewarding experience, just being able to help and know that we’re doing something good for this town,” said Lance Cpl. Alex Nelson, Evansville, Ind., native and Marine with the 26th MEU.

Receiving word of the incident

After receiving the word to move the original 88, most not knowing what they were headed into, Leathernecks grabbed what gear they could and headed out to an even more uncertain community.

Before the moon had a chance to disappear under the tree line, the Marines were in the air, off to what was sure to be a long and difficult task.

Upon landing at a local fire department near Elnora, the Marines headed off to Bedford, Ind., where they made their base of operations. There they decided to split up into two teams, one would go to the Town Hall to fill sandbags and the other headed to Elnora to being reinforcing the levees.

Taking action

After nearly two hours of hard work, word passed to consolidate the two groups, so all of the Marines could fight off the fast-approaching flood waters at the levees. And upon arriving at the scene, it was apparent why.

The rising waters had already crested in several areas and were threatening to crest in many more. Immediately the arriving Marines began assisting their fellow Marines, National Guard and locals already fighting back the torrent of flood water.

After hours of struggling against Mother Nature, the Marines were finally able to take their first real break since late the night before, when almost 200 additional National Guard solders arrived around noon.

Wrapping up

Seeing the Marines, solders and locals were without fresh food and lacking water some of the locals brought out fried chicken and green beans for lunch.

“I think is the best chow we’ve had since we’ve been out here,” commented one of the Marines.

Even though the flood waters eventually reached 29.9 feet - the highest that part of Indiana had seen since 1913 - the levees held, protecting the homes of the 736 residents of Elnora.

“Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief are among the primary mission capabilities of the 26th MEU,” said commanding officer Col. Mark J. Desens. “Though it’s not what we came here to do, we are ready to help those affected by this crisis.”

26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)