By Bill Phelan
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. - Social media is playing a role in the National Guard's flood response efforts in southeast Missouri.
Soldiers of the 70th Troop Command, who are coordinating flood response missions from a tactical operations center at Jefferson Barracks, have been monitoring facebook since Gov. Jay Nixon mobilized the National Guard on Monday.
Lt. Matthew Knoderer, the operations center battle captain, said Troop Command Soldiers have primarily monitored the facebook profiles of local and regional television stations.
"We're mostly reading comments from the locals to see what they're reporting," Knoderer said Thursday. "Last night we used the comments to monitor the location of a reported tornado. We also caught a comment from someone who said that the National Guard had told them to evacuate, then an hour later found out that wasn't so."
Operations sergeants monitoring facebook comments rely on liaison officers in the flooded areas to verify those comments.
"We want to make sure people aren't reporting things they shouldn't be," Knoderer said. "So as information comes in, we pass it along to the liaison officer and ask them to confirm it. Each liaison officer is working out of the local emergency operation centers with local authorities and citizens. They can see what's going on."
While Knoderer acknowledges that most facebook comments about the flooding contain information the National Guard already has, he is quick not to dismiss the social media site.
"We did learn of a couple of road closures and tornado events we weren't aware of so I can't say it hasn't been valuable," he said.
Soldiers of the 70th Troop Command are among the Missouri National Guard task force of approximately 680 Soldiers and Airmen on emergency duty in southeast Missouri in response to flood conditions and at the Lambert Air National Guard facility in St. Louis as a result of last week's tornado.
Flood support operations include assisting local authorities with everything from sand bagging, monitoring levies, route reconnaissance, to door-to-door safety visits, and supporting law enforcement and first responders.
Other units supporting the flood response include: Units: 131st Bomb Wing, Whiteman Air Force Base/St. Louis; Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 35th Engineer Brigade, Fort Leonard Wood; 175th Military Police Battalion, of Columbia; the 1140th Engineer Battalion, Cape Girardeau; the 1221st Transportation Company, of Dexter, Portageville and Sikeston; 1140th Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Cape Girardeau; the 1138th Military Police Company, of West Plains and Springfield; the 1138th Engineer Company, of Farmington and Fredericktown; the 1175th Military Police Company, of St. Clair and St. Louis; the 880th Engineer Detachment, Perryville; the 220th Engineer Company, Festus; the 1438th Engineer Company, of Macon and Kirksville; 157th Air Operations Group, Jefferson Barracks; 121st Air Control Squadron, Jefferson Barracks; 70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment of Jefferson City; Missouri Wing Civil Air Patrol and the Joint Operations Center at Joint Force Headquarters in Jefferson City.
Missouri's Soldiers and Airmen will continue working in support of local authorities until released by the governor.
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please visit www.moguard.com and our social media sites: www.facebook.com/Missouri.National.Guard; www.twitter.com/Missouri_NG; www.youtube.com/MoNationalGuard; www.myspace.com/missouri_ng; www.flickr.com/photos/missouriguard; www.moguard.com/blog