Monday, August 23rd, 2010
By Janie Southard
Guardsmen double time school move
  ST. MARYS - Mission accomplished.
With the assistance of the 1486th and 1487th Transportation Units of the Ohio National Guard, the move to the new school was nearly a workday ahead of the estimated time.
The two Guard units, 120-plus members strong, began mid-afternoon Friday moving more than 5,000 boxes and a huge amount of classroom equipment from the McBroom complex to the new 6-12 building on state Route 66. They completed their mission by 3:30 p.m. Saturday, well ahead of the anticipated finish of noon Sunday.
The request for assistance of the National Guard through its community relations program has been in the works for almost a year, according to district superintendent Mary Riepenhoff.
"Mary contacted the Guard headquarters, who asked us if we wanted to take on a great mission in St. Marys. We said 'of course we do,' " said Lt. Col. Thom Haidet, battalion commander of the 112th Transportation Unit, with headquarters in North Canton.
Made up of citizen soldiers, the Ohio National Guard is located in 54 communities.
"What the pictures won't tell is how upbeat and positive these men and women are as they get the job done. ... They are so organized and professional. ... We are extremely grateful for their help," Riepenhoff said. There is no cost to the district for the Guards' service.
Guard members slept in an air-conditioned area in the McBroom school and ate in the cafeteria during their two-day stay in St. Marys. All were in formation in front of the school by 8 a.m. Saturday to receive their orders for the day.
"That was a very impressive sight," said district business manager Kurt Kuffner, who stood with Riepenhoff and Haidet on Saturday morning watching the relay line of at least 50 soldiers feeding boxes from McBroom's interior, out the door to the flatbed military trucks.
About a half dozen soldier were on the flatbeds stacking color-coded boxes for the ride to the new school.
"These people are so efficient. About all I can do is just get out of their way," said high school principal Dave Lewis, who with assistant principal Brian Pohl set up their base near the entrance.
Lewis, who is beginning his first year as principal, said the first day of school will find everyone in the same boat.
"We're all freshmen this year," he said.
Teachers and staff now are getting their new quarters ready for the first day of school, Sept. 8.
The benefit to the Guard helping with the move is training, according to Haidet.
"Our people are getting experience in backing and maneuvering these trucks. We'll switch off (responsibilities) so that as many as possible get the opportunity to operate the trucks. We are a transportation unit, that is our specialty," he said. The unit motto is: "Nothing happens until something moves."
These transportation units (and others) have been deployed to assist in several national emergencies, including hurricanes Gustav, Rita and Katrina, as well as serving in the Persian War, according to the battalion commander.
The St. Marys mission wasn't all work. Friday night, the unit attended the annual Chicken Bowl scrimmage football game and were honored on the field. Later, they played a few pickup basketball games in the McBroom gym.
The Guard units assisting in the move hail from North Canton, Mansfield, Piqua and Eaton.
St. Marys' own Ohio National Guard unit, Alpha Company, 37th Special Troops Battalion, 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, is an engineering division and is on a training mission at Camp Perry preparing for deployment to Afghanistan next year.
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