AFNORTH continues to sharpen skills during hurricane exercise


 
Photos AFNORTH continues hurricane exercise

Local television stations Channel 7 and Channel 13 interview Tom Pieknik, National Security Emergency Preparedness coordinator, while reporting on Air Force Northern’s participation in Ardent Sentry 12.

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AFNORTH continues to sharpen skills during hurricane exercise

Posted 5/6/2012   Updated 5/6/2012
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by Maj. Kay Hyche
AFNORTH Public Affairs

5/6/2012 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.  – Air Forces Northern (AFNORTH) continues to sharpen its hurricane preparedness skills during exercise Ardent Sentry ’12 by providing support to civil authorities after a simulated Hurricane Zelda made landfall in Texas.

Ardent Sentry 12, being held May 2-9, is a U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) focused on Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DCSA). The exercise is designed to validate existing DSCA plans, policies, and procedures, including the Federal Inter-agency Response Plans, as well as state and regional plans

The exercise reached the scenario stage of a simulated devastating category 4 hurricane actually weakening to a Category 2 before making landfall in Brownsville, Texas, Saturday night at about midnight. The hurricane had sustained wind speeds of 105 mph and a storm surge that reached 14-17 feet in the Brownsville area and up to 23 feet in South Padre Island. The hurricane produced rain accumulations of 4 to 8 inches over Texas with a maximum of up to possible 15 inches.

Air Force Airmen from across the country were deployed to various locations in preparation of the hurricane making landfall as part of the exercise. The deployed Airmen provided AFNORTH with situational awareness of the ongoing relief efforts and established common processes and practices in coordination with other agencies. During DSCA missions, all AFNORTH efforts are in support of a lead federal agency.

And it was a busy several days of preparation by exercise participants.

· AFNORTH was ready with prepositioned helicopter crews for search-and-rescue missions (SAR) standing by to respond after the storm hit land. The designated SAR aircraft are capable of nighttime search and rescue and also will transport Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assessment teams over the area to gather critical information for state and federal emergency managers.

· AFNORTH also had pre-deployed Emergency Planning Liaison Officers (EPLO) to work with state, local and civil authorities in recovery efforts for the estimated one million people who decided to ride out the storm for this exercise. During the exercise play, the simulated evacuations of more than 500,000 people from the threatened area was planned for and completed.

· Also as part of the exercise, AFNORTH planners worked with various agencies to ensure Randolph and Laughlin Air Force bases in Texas were established as support installations to stage military and FEMA relief supplies prior to the storm.

· AFNORTH officials deployed a Joint Air Component Coordination Elements (JACCE) in response to the Hurricane Zelda. The AFNORTH JACCE team deployed to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to support Joint Task Force 51 Hurricane Zelda relief preparation efforts. The task force and JACCE has since forward deployed to Laredo, Texas. JACCE members are Air Force subject matter experts who serve to coordinate Air Force assets to assist wherever needed during times of crisis.

· Additionally ahead of landfall, the 601st Air and Space Operations Center (601st AOC) provided support at three international airports in Texas. As part of the exercise, the state of Texas requested Department of Defense support to help evacuate approximately 17,500 residents and 500 aero-medical patients prior to Hurricane Zelda hitting land.

· In support of simulated evacuations from the projected landfall area, the 601st AOC Regional Air Movement Coordination Center (RAMCC) stood up Thursday to provide support at Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport in Brownsville, McAllen Miller International Airport in McAllen, and Valley International Airport in Harlingen. RAMCC facilitated the aero-medical evacuation of nearly 500 patients and evacuating 17,500 people. The RAMCC typically coordinates all U.S. military, commercial, governmental and non-governmental flow control into and out of the ramp area at these airports. Operating 24 hours a day, they provide aircraft landing and take-off times and coordinate air traffic control with various civilian agencies. The RAMCC stood down operations Friday.

· Continuing to ensure forces were ready when needed, AFNORTH simulated the activation of the 487th Air Expeditionary Wing (AEW) at Fort Hood, Texas, to bring AFNORTH operational and medical personnel and equipment to support the first responders and FEMA for consequence and crisis management. The 487th AEW consists of an expeditionary medical group, providing a 160-member team of highly-trained medical professionals and a mobile hospital to support the medical needs of emergency responders. The 487th also has a geographically separated expeditionary operations group at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind., providing search and rescue capability to military forces and civilian agencies operating in the field.

· Along with all the other exercise planning, AFNORTH responded to a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) request for aerial imagery of the predicted Hurricane Zelda disaster area prior to landfall. AFNORTH has a variety of aerial platforms available to capture imagery of the forecasted impact areas depending on the requirements of the requesting agency. One of the mainstays of AFNORTH’s ability to provide imagery to civil authorities is the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). When tasked to execute their Air Force Auxiliary mission, CAP units across the country can quickly respond to provide civilian agencies with much needed imagery that can be used to analyze and assess conditions on the ground prior to, during and after a disaster or contingency. Currently, CAP has units ready to support disaster response efforts in Texas and Louisiana.

Most hurricane response efforts can be handled by the respective states and state National Guard forces. USNORTHCOM, located at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., will conduct DSCA when federal military forces or capabilities are required for the Continental U.S., the Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico. As the Air Force component command to USNORTHCOM, AFNORTH provides Air Force support during DSCA events and events like this training exercise ensure AFNORTH is ready when needed.

Article source: http://www.1af.acc.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123301007

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