Case #2041.0

Operation Rollback Water: The National Guard's Response to the 2009 North Dakota Floods (A)

Publication Date: August 13, 2015
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In spring 2009, North Dakota experienced some of the worst flooding in state history. This case describes how the state's National Guard responded by mobilizing thousands of its troops and working in concert with personnel and equipment from six other states as well as an array of federal, state, and local stakeholders. Specifically, after providing background on the North Dakota National Guard and the state's susceptibility to flooding, the case captures how Guard officials developed and practiced a plan ("Operation Rollback Water") to respond to the floods and how they then had to adapt that plan as the crisis escalated and conditions changed. In particular, the Guard had to work with a large amount of federal resources that arrived amid the crisis, it had to respond to demands for extensive and rapid assistance from a range of municipalities, and it had to endure a prolonged event that taxed Guard members in the field and the operations and management team that supported them. The case concludes with an epilogue that describes how the Guard applied the lessons it learned from the 2009 floods in response to a similar disaster in 2011.

Learning Objective:
This case details the experience of the North Dakota National Guard as it worked with federal, state, and local actors to respond to one of the worst floods in state history. By illustrating the political, logistical, and operational difficulties involved in the response, it illustrates for students the challenges of leading a large, lengthy disaster response in partnership with an array of stakeholders. More broadly, the case prompts readers to consider how to manage large teams under stress.

Other Details

Case Author:
David Tannenwald
Faculty Lead:
Arnold Howitt
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States
Funding Source:
National Guard Bureau