Air Forces Northern hones hurricane response skills

5/3/2012 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Air Forces Northern (AFNORTH) is putting its hurricane preparedness skills to practice during exercise Ardent Sentry ’12 conducted by U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) focused on Defense Support of Civil Authorities, May 2-9.

Designed to validate existing plans, policies, and procedures, including the Federal Inter-agency Response Plans, as well as state and regional plans, Ardent Sentry ’12 features an exercise scenario many in the Gulf region have seen before – a tropical storm heading toward the Yucatan Peninsula off the east coast of Mexico with the potential to become a major hurricane.

In response to the simulated storm, various civilian and military agencies began simulated preparations for a potential landfall on U.S. soil.

“This exercise provides us a pre-hurricane season opportunity to validate our processes to ensure we can quickly and effectively support civil authorities if they ask for our help during a disaster,” said Lt. Gen. Sid Clarke, AFNORTH commander. “Everyone at AFNORTH realizes that what we do is a no-fail mission – whether it’s defending the homeland or supporting civil authorities. Although this exercise focuses on a hurricane, we are always ready to stand up in support of civil authorities whenever the need arises.”

Most hurricane response efforts can be handled by the respective states and state National Guard forces. When federal military forces or capabilities are required for the Continental United States, the Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico, USNORTHCOM, located at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., will conduct Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA). As the Air Force component command to USNORTHCOM, AFNORTH provides Air Force support during DSCA events.

During the exercise, members of AFNORTH and the 601st Air and Space Operations Center (AOC) are being augmented by approximately 100 personnel from around the country. The additional forces provide the AFNORTH and AOC staff with the capability to sustain disaster response operations for around-the-clock recovery efforts.

AFNORTH has also deployed various emergency planning officers and other liaisons to coordinate with other agencies taking part in the exercise across the country to refine interagency processes.

“This is truly a complex and comprehensive exercise that stretches our resources a bit to ensure we consider all aspects of possible support civil authorities might request,” said Col. William Routt, AFNORTH directors of Operations. “And by having people come here to augment our staff and have our people deploy to work with other agencies, we are able to expand awareness of what we do and also establish common practices with other agencies.”

Colonel Routt added that while AFNORTH plays an important role in disaster response, all ANFORTH efforts are in support of a lead federal agency working closely with state and local officials.

Sixty members of the 286th Air Operations Group, Meridian, Miss., are participating in the exercise with 51 assigned to AFNORTH and the AOC, while a nine-person team deployed to Texas to support U.S. Army North’s Task Force 51.

“The 286th AOG is our primary augmentation force and provides us with expertise in critical planning and support functions ranging from logistics to air space management, as well as making up our joint air component command element which deployed to Texas,” said Colonel Routt.

Other augmentation forces arrived from a variety military installations located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.; Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.; Peterson AFB and Schriever AFB, Colo.; Salt Lake City, Utah; Louisville, Tenn.; Fort Campbell, Kent.; Dyess AFB, Texas; and Travis AFB and Beale AFB in Calif.

As the exercise progresses and Tropical Storm Zelda becomes Hurricane Zelda, AFNORTH and the AOC will work with other agencies to coordinate various Air Force support capabilities such as search and rescue, airlift, air space management, incident awareness and assessment, medical support, logistics and base support and communications support.

“To most people, hurricanes are a distant thought and probably don’t raise eyebrows until the weatherman talks about an approaching storm. But AFNORTH stays ready 24-7 to support civil authorities whenever a disaster happens, be it a hurricane, flood, wild fire or other incident,” said Col. Randy Spear, 601st AOC commander.

Article source: http://www.1af.acc.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123300709

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