CAMP WILLIAMS — As federal officials work to reopen the government, soldiers from the Utah Army National Guard 1457th Engineer Battalion waited, hoping to get their orders to rebuild a flood-ravaged road in Colorado.
A lack of funding has been a big issue for deployment. But at least for these two states, a spirit of cooperation has prevailed.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, commanders in chief of their states' National Guards, have arranged to share state resources to fund the mission.
"It's a win-win," said Lt. Col. Hank McIntire of the Utah National Guard.
Utah guard members will travel to Colorado to help reconstruct a stretch of U.S. 36 in Boulder and Larimer counties between Lyons and Estes Park, Colo.
"You have some soldiers that were sitting home not getting a paycheck because of the shutdown," McIntire said. "Now they're on active duty, so they can go do the mission, get a paycheck, training and help the folks in Colorado."
About 120 members of the battalion departed from Camp Williams on Friday to assist in the reconstruction project in the aftermath of massive flooding in Colorado.
"I witnessed some of the destruction and it's pretty significant," said Utah National Guard Capt. Blake Bingham. "Once we get our boots on the ground, we'll have our work cut out for us."
"This is a real-world mission. This isn't just training," McIntire said.
Utah National Guard engineers transported vehicles and equipment to Colorado Sept. 26-28 to have them in place to begin their mission Saturday.
The Utah portion of the mission is expected to last approximately three weeks. After that, the bulk of the group will return home. About 20 Utah soldiers will remain in Colorado for a few weeks longer to provide continuity for the reconstruction project as guard units from other states relieve the 1457th.
While the soldiers clean up the mess in Colorado, McIntire made a plea to those in Washington.
"Let the elected officials sort out the other stuff that's kind of swirling above us," he said.
Contributing: Robert Trishman