Photos: Fighting floodwaters in Fargo

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  1. This satellite image released Tuesday shows the flooded Red River on Sunday as it divides North Dakota and Minnesota in the Fargo area. (Digitalglobe via Getty Images / Getty Images Contributor) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Snow falls in downtown Fargo on Monday. The city's heavy equipment was pulled away from the ongoing levee construction to deal with the snowstorm. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. The driver of this truck braved floodwaters and ice slabs on Monday driving along Interstate 29, north of Grand Forks, N.D. (Eric Hylden / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. National Guard soldiers prepare to launch large sheets of plastic with sandbag weights over the side of an earthen dike on the southside of Fargo Monday. Engineers hoped the plastic barrier will help prevent erosion as snow followed by high winds and blizzard conditions entered the region. (Allen Fredrickson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The Red River had swamped these homes Monday in Moorhead, Minn. (Elaine Thompson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. An ice formation on a tree indicates the height of floodwaters, after the Red River receded in Oxbow, south of Fargo, on Sunday. (Eric Miller / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. This sign is among the ways residents of Fargo, N.D., are thanking the thousands of volunteer sandbaggers. (Daniel Barry / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A bitter cold did not stop folks in Fargo from attending a prayer service Sunday. (Daniel Barry / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Randy Richards uses a broom handle Sunday to measure the depth of the receding Red River floodwater that surrounds his brother's home in Fargo. (Eric Miller / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The flood threat hadn't killed all signs of humor -- this one was spotted in the front window of a home in rural Fargo Sunday. (Carson Walker / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Volunteers work to fill sandbags Sunday in Fargo. The effort has been going on for more than a week in the city and other areas along the Red River. (Daniel Barry / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Carl Sinner shows off his "catch," a walleye pillow, as he and friends Dennis McIntyre, left, and Dick Roswick take a break Sunday from days of fighting Red River floodwaters to save Roswick's home in Fargo. (Eric Miller / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. People work to funnel floodwater out of a building at the Oak Grove Lutheran school on Sunday in Fargo. The bloated Red River briefly breached a dike early Sunday, pouring water into the school campus. Crews managed to largely contain the flooding, preventing more widespread damage in nearby areas. (Elaine Thompson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Bob Smith, left, and Jared Bakko head back to their cars after Smith checked on his house and Bakko took supplies to his grandmother as the Red River flood waters began to recede just south of Moorhead, Minn., on Saturday. (Craig Lassig / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. David Marshall lowers a current meter into the swollen Red River from a closed bridge between Moorhead, Minn.,and Fargo, N.D., on Saturday. (Jim Mone / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A road is covered by floodwaters on Saturday. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Homes are surrounded by floating ice and floodwater as the Red River continues to rise on Saturday in Fargo, N.D. The normal banks of the river are defined by the twisting tree line and the ice toward the bottom of the picture is floodwater. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Farrell Turner carries Nathaniel Jones while Amanda Monson, Ashley Jones and Cody Turner unload some belongings as they evacuate their home because of the Red River flood in Moorhead, Minn., on Friday. (Craig Lassig / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Lowell Bottrell paddles his canoe through icy floodwater up to a neighbor's home as the Red River continues to rise on Friday. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Evelyn Radke is comforted by Anna Charles, right and Ves Marinov as she is evacuated with the rest of the residents at the Elim Rehab & Care Center on Thursday in Fargo. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Randy Haas steps off a Coast Guard air boat after being rescued from his flooded home Thursday in Oxbow, N.D. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Vic Klosterman walks through flooding from the Red River in front of his home south of Fargo on Thursday. (Eric Miller / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Volunteers ride in the scoop of a front end loading tractor after sandbagging around a home threatened by flood waters from the Red River in Fargo on Thrusday. (Eric Miller / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Volunteers hitch a ride in a dump truck to help residents sandbag their homes as water from the Red River continues to rise on Wednesday. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Emergency workers use an air boat to rescue Destiny Dolan, 15, front left, and friend Kayla Weston, 15, on Wednesday. Dolan said the experience of being trapped was terrifying. (Nate Jenkins / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Michael Stensgard uses one of his family's boats to get back to their home from the Red River on Wednesday, near Fargo. (Richard Tsong-taatarii / The Star Tribune) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. One of Doug Stensguard's dogs, Annie, looks out over what used to be a 5-acre yard and an outbuilding that was flooded by the rising Red River on Tuesday in Fargo. Stensguard built an earthen and sandbag dike around his home in the hope of holding back the rising floodwater from the Red River. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Zach Boor, 12, whose face is splattered with mud, passes a sandbag down the line as he joined college students to help build a dike along the north side of Rose Coulee on Monday in Fargo. Boor was excused from classes at Discovery Middle School so he could join thousands of other volunteers to build dikes to protect the city from the flooding Red River. (Dave Wallis / The Forum via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. North Dakota Army National Guard troops haul away empty palettes from River Shore Drive on Monday. (Dave Arntson / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Volunteers help place sandbags outside the home of Jeremy Kuipers in Moorhead, Minn., on Tuesday. (Richard Tsong-taatarii / The Minneapolis Star Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. As the Red River rises in the background, Gloria Brown hauls a wagon load of sandbags to pile around her neighbor's home Tuesday in Fargo. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 4/4/2009 2:56:36 PM ET 2009-04-04T18:56:36

Staff Sgt. Matthew Mitzel has patrolled the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq, and now he's patrolled the Red River in Fargo.

"I'll take Fargo any day," said Mitzel, a North Dakota National Guard member and veteran of two tours in Iraq now leading a quick-response rescue team in flood-soaked Fargo.

"It's the first time in my career I'm not fighting with Iraqi terrorists. I can just help North Dakotans fight Mother Nature. I'm fighting side by side with the people I'm protecting."

National Guard soldiers were a huge presence in Fargo and Moorhead, Minn., after the Red River rose to a threatening level against the miles of protective dikes. As the water receded, the Minnesota Guard ended its mission around Moorhead on Friday, but the North Dakota Guard kept about 1,200 soldiers on its side of the river.

Military Humvees and helicopters have given Fargo the feeling of an occupied city — but it was an occupation that residents welcomed.

"It's nice to have them deal with our sand, not the Iraq sand," U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., said at the peak of the threat, referring to the tons of sandbags hoisted into place by guard soldiers.

The North Dakota guard deployed a total of about 2,000 soldiers to Fargo and surrounding areas to help with the flood fight. Minnesota sent 650 of its National Guard members to the Moorhead area, and several other Upper Midwest states pitched in with 400 more.

Most of the soldiers in Fargo have been working 12-hour shifts, patrolling in two-person teams to check for leaks in the dikes and guard closed streets.

Staff Sgt. Justin Lampert, 26, is based in Williston, about 330 miles from Fargo, but had been teaching at air assault school at Fort Benning, Ga. He went to college in Fargo, and after seeing the floods on the news he asked his commanders if they would send him to help out.

"The town is near and dear to me," Lampert said. "It just sucks when you see all your friends helping out, and you're sitting in 80-degree weather and you're chilling out."

Lampert, who was assigned to roadside bomb removal squads in Iraq, led a quick-response ground team in Fargo. They got word of a dike breach last week by Oak Grove Lutheran School and "took off running" in single-digit weather to join the emergency sandbagging at the school.

A member of another quick-response team, Sgt. Carrie Rossow, 28, spent 15 months in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. She said nearly every member of the North Dakota National Guard has served time overseas since Sept. 11, 2001.

Rossow, a tax accountant who lives south of nearby Casselton, said everyone in Fargo was "working toward a common goal."

"In Iraq, you don't know who your enemy is and who your ally is," she said. "There, it's a surprise around every corner. Here, it's a familiar element."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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