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Local National Guard’s new commander has lots to do

Courtesy photo

The new commander and the old commander during a changing of the guard ceremony for the 176th Engineers Company of the National Guard of Snohomish.

SNOHOMISH — Throughout the country, National Guard units have stepped forward to serve their community in a time of dire need. With civil unrest, a global pandemic and wildfires suffocating the West Coast, many communities just need help.
The 176th Engineers Company, a National Guard unit based in Snohomish, has been on the front lines serving the county in a time of prolonged uncertainty.
“We are affected, by the circumstances just as much as everybody else,” the company’s new commander, 1st Lt. Lee Roach, said. “But it’s really valuable to us to get a chance to take part in these because we love being able to help our communities out, that’s why a lot of us got into the National Guard in the first place.”
In the midst of the chaos, the Company has undergone a change of command following the departure of Capt. Christa A. Draggie. 
Roach was named Commander of the 176th at a Change of Command Ceremony in early September.
Although a contractor “on the civilian side of things,” Roach was previously a Platoon Leader Washington Army National Guard Unit 898, a brigade engineering battalion. 
“I had built some relationships with people at the 176 and I’ve been in construction for about 20 years, so my skill set and my experience was a good fit for the 176,” Roach said.
The 176th Engineer company is unique being it is the only vertical construction company in the state, meaning that the unit specializes in construction. 
“A lot of the jobs within the company are related to the construction trades,” Roach said. “So we’ve got carpenters, electricians, plumbers and then heavy equipment operators who specialize in things like road construction and other big projects.” 
Because the company is so job-specific, many soldiers within the unit travel from places as far as Chelan for missions and drills.
The National Guard has two areas of focus referred to as missions. Federally, the National Guard would act as the Army and support with deployments and missions overseas. At the state level, the National Guard has a multitude of tasks depending on the type of unit and situation.
The 176th provides support for a lot of different agencies throughout the state. According to Roach, they work closely with the Department of Natural Resources, the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Health and use their skills crafted in civilian jobs like construction or heavy machinery operators.
“We use those skills wherever that the state really needs us and right now we’re really busy,” Roach said.
Snohomish County has been continuously battling the COVID-19 pandemic longer than any other county in America. On Jan. 19, the first documented case in the U.S. came from a patient at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett. 
Over the last six months, the 176th has provided personnel for COVID-19 testing stations as well as personnel to support food banks across the state. Currently, the 176th Engineer unit has 35 soldiers assisting with food banks and testing stations throughout Washington. 
Roach said he isn’t sure when that mission will end, but it started as a sprint and is turning into a marathon.
More recently the 176th sent a crew of 14 to fight a wildfire near Davenport. Roach said they’ll be there until the end of the month.
“When it was time for us to send up a crew for the firefighters, we put out a call for volunteers and within a half-hour we had all 14 of our slots filled,” Roach said. “So everybody was ready to go, everybody was ready to help out in this. We love it, we love doing it.”




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