Airmen set up safeguard against river Published July 12, 2011 By Staff Sgt. Michael Crane 139th Airlift Wing ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Piles of sand have taken up some of the parking lots here as HESCO barriers are being erected today. The barriers are being installed around five buildings at the Missouri Air National Guard's 139th Airlift Wing, St. Joseph, Mo. "We're placing these as a precautionary measure," said Col. Mike Pankau, 139th AW commander. "It was a command staff decision to establish a 'beachhead' for our command, control and communication." Last month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released water upstream on the Missouri River due to record snow melt and rain. The river crested at 29.97 feet here last month leaving only a few feet of freeboard on the levee. Some 4,000 tons of sand was hauled in last week for the HESCO barriers, said Doug Cerra, a civilian contractor at the 139th AW. These particular HESCO barriers stand four feet tall. Some of the buildings will have double stacked barriers providing eight feet of protection. HESCO barriers are a common sight on military bases in deployed locations. They protect against potential enemy attacks and in this case, potential flooding. They are reusable. After installing the barriers around the Operations building, Airmen began filling them with sand. Once that is complete, plastic sheets will go over them. "They provide a line of defense against the water should it overtop the levees," Cerra said. "The barriers will stay here until the flood threat is over," said Master Sgt. Randy Smith, 139th AW facility manager. More than 35 Airmen and contractors are helping out with the process, and the barriers are expected to be completed late next week. "It's been a team effort putting this together. Between the contractors and the 139th, everyone has worked hard to make this happen," said Cerra.