Missouri Guard’s Task Force Phoenix to supervise debris clearing mission

During a press conference at the National Guard Armory in Joplin, Mo., Gov. Jay Nixon and Col. William A. Ward, commander of Task Force Phoenix, relay information pertaining to debris removal generated by the tornado that struck the community on May 22. (Photo by Nancy K. Lane/Missouri National Guard)


By Jennifer Archdekin

JOPLIN, Mo. - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced May 31 that Task Force Phoenix of the Missouri National Guard will supervise the cleanup and removal process of the millions of cubic yards of debris that remain from the deadly tornado that ripped through Joplin on May 22.

The National Guard will provide oversight to the federal resources coming to Joplin and the surrounding communities, Nixon said.

"I've been clear from the start," said Nixon. "We will rebuild Joplin. It is a job that is going to take time, no question about it. But we are here for the long haul, and removing the vast amount of debris is a key part of working with the people of Joplin to bring their city back."

President Barack Obama approved the federal funding needed to help with the expedited removal of debris, pledging the federal government will pay 90 percent of the debris removal cost.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, State Emergency Management Agency, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, City of Joplin, municipality of Duquesne, county governments and numerous other agencies are partners in the effort.

Col. William A. Ward, commander of Task Force Phoenix and the 110th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, is leading his team to aid the citizens of Missouri. An initial debris removal contract was awarded May 30, which allows immediate debris removal to begin. As this mission continues, Ward said there will be a ramping up process with efforts steadily increasing as resources arrive.

"You'll start seeing progress immediately," said Ward. "There'll be trucks and loaders hauling off the debris starting this week. In the coming weeks, you're going to see a lot of progress."

Ward said the debris will first be removed from public rights of way and will later expand to private property meeting the criteria. Efforts began June 1 in Sector D-6, which is in the heart of Joplin, the north central part of the affected area. Additionally, Ward said the Corps of Engineers is already working to provide more contracts to aid in the effort.

"They will come online as available and together with EPA contracts to remove hazardous debris will form the backbone of our debris removal program," said Ward.

At the same time, Task Force Southwest Twister continues their mission providing military police support at traffic control points and presence control.

"All of us greatly appreciate the non-stop work the Guard has been doing down here since day one and they continue to have my utmost confidence as they take on this monumental effort," said Nixon.

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