Roswell, New Mexico, is far more famous as the central locale for a host of UFO conspiracies than as an example of the can-do spirit of American communities – civilian and military alike – when Old Man Winter throws an unexpected roundhouse punch of a blizzard your way.
Right after Christmas last year (Dec. 26 through 27 to be precise) some two feet of snow socked Roswell in less than 24 hours – courtesy of a storm appropriately named Goliath – and the white stuff just kept right on falling after that.
Municipal workers were quickly overwhelmed as the snow piled up in and around Roswell, closing the roads and thus choking off the only avenues of resupply for their community: trucks could not get in, nor get out.
What to do?
Well, like in the days of the Old West, you call in the cavalry is what you do – though in this time and place, the “cavalry” doesn’t wear blue, carry six shooters or ride horses.
Rather, they wear camouflage and pilot diesel-powered construction equipment – proving once again why such soldiers might be an excellent fit for trucking industry jobs.
U.S. Army Sgt. John Montoya Jr. recently chronicled the deeds of the New Mexico National Guard's 920th Engineer Company, based in Roswell, after the local government – despite “working flat out” in his words – could not overcome all the snow dropped by winter storm Goliath.
According to 1st Lt. Ernest Carlson, officer in charge of the 920th Engineer Company, his unit cleared snow from nearly 25.5 miles of road by Dec. 30 – all despite the fact they do not typically train for snow removal.
"We don't usually move snow. We move aggregate and dirt," he explained.
And while clearing roads “may seem like a boring task,” it’s a job essential for life, Lt. Carlson noted.
Indeed, Horizontal Construction Engineers Sgt. Timoteo Delapaz and Sgt. Ezequial Leyva cleared remote roads outside the small town of Hagerman, NM, to help connect several rural households to a nearby highway and the outside world.
"The people out in the county are the ones we have the biggest concern about,” noted Maj. Randall Bates, 717th Brigade Support Battalion Administrative Officer; a National Guard unit that also helped Roswell dig out from the Goliath storm. “We have to push miles and miles of snow to get to them."
In fact, Hagerman’s residents had not left their homes until the heavy equipment operated by the New Mexico guardsmen made the road passable enough to drive their vehicles to the nearby highway.
In addition to clearing the streets of Roswell and the county roads outside of town, 920th Soldiers helped individuals get their vehicles unstuck from snow drifts and provided them with transportation to their homes if their vehicle could not be pulled out from a drift.
Sgt. Misael Castillo-Rascon described an incident in the north part of Roswell back on Dec. 29 where he helped a sport utility vehicle out of a dangerous situation.
"We had about ten feet of snow to the left and to the right. It was on an untraveled road, the ice was melting, and water was coming up to the door on a [Ford] 2010 Expedition,” he said. “We strapped a cord from their bumper to the Humvee [a nickname for the military’s “High Mobility Multi-purposed Wheeled-Vehicle,” which replaced the venerable jeep many years ago] and pulled them back to a cleared road.”
All in a day’s work for the latest breed of “ride to the rescue” cavalry it seems.