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Civil Air Patrol helps battle flooding in Fargo area

Members of the Civil Air Patrol's Northland Composite Squadron in Bemidji help homeowners sandbag near their homes Tuesday in the area of 40th Avenue South and Copperfield Court in southeast Fargo. Cadet Tech Sgt. Eric Heinonen is at left. In the center are Cadet Airman First Class Jesse Bushong (holding sandbag) and Maj. David Myers, chaplain, with Cadet Tech. Sgt. Rebekah Schrader and Cadet Tech. Sgt. Beau Braun standing on sandbags in the background. Second Lt. Tom Stinar, deputy commander for cadets,...

As a wintry storm swirled outside, covering the Fargo, N.D., area with a blanket of snow, Civil Air Patrol cadets from the Bemidji area worked inside the Fargodome filling sandbags Wednesday.

A day earlier, the cadets helped sandbag along the Red River to prevent the anticipated rising water levels from reaching homes.

The Civil Air Patrol's Northland Composite Squadron based in Bemidji dispatched a team of 14 members Monday night to assist in the flood-relief efforts in the Fargo area.

The late-night trip took several hours longer than expected because of impassible or closed roads into the Fargo area. The three officers and 11 cadets arrived in Fargo early Tuesday morning and checked into their mission base at the terminal adjacent to the Air National Guard base in Fargo.

After sleeping at Temple Baptist Church in Fargo, the team headed out Tuesday to sandbag along the Red River.

The cadets did a phenomenal job, said 1st Lt. Rob Sandberg, the squadron's emergency services officer.

On Tuesday, the cadets worked through muddy conditions and off-and-on rain while sandbagging along the Red River, Sandberg said. They worked for eight hours - including breaks - with sandbags weighing 35-40 pounds.

Due to the snow Wednesday, the team stayed inside, filling sandbags in the Fargodome.

"It was just a real pleasure to be able to go and help the Fargo community," Sandberg said.

Cadet Staff Sgt. Kristin Schrader, 17, of Lake George, said she was glad to help.

"It was a lot of fun," she said. "It was hard work."

Schrader said it was neat to be able to help the local residents save their homes.

"They were very grateful," she said.

"It was pretty cool because that is what we do in Civil Air Patrol is help people like that," said Cadet Staff Sgt. Joshua Mandrell, 15, of Bemidji.

Cadet 2nd Lt. Ethan Sundquist, 17, of Bemidji, said one woman who was helping in a sandbag line along the Red River later went into her house and brought out fresh-baked goods to the volunteers.

"It was astonishing how some people kept going," Sundquist said.

Along with making cookies and other goodies, Sandberg said residents also brought out their grills to grill food for the volunteers.Sundquist, the squadron's cadet commander, said the mission this week to the Fargo area was the first time any of the 11 cadets had taken part in flood-relief efforts.

"I think it went over very well," Sundquist said. "We train for this kind of stuff."

For the cadets to be ready to go on any type of mission, they have to practice and train for hundreds of hours, said Capt. Robin Helgager, the squadron's commander.

She noted that the cadets have been waiting to do a mission like this to put their training into practice.

"I'm just so proud of them," Helgager said.

The squadron returned to Bemidji Wednesday night and is currently on standby to help with flood-relief efforts locally. Sandberg said the squadron may send a team to the Fargo area again next week or later to help with efforts there.