121st ARW Emergency Managers receive invaluable experience at PATRIOT exercise

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Wendy Kuhn
  • 121st Air Refueling Wing

VOLK FIELD, Wis. -- “To save lives, minimize loss or degradation of resources and continue, sustain and resume operational tempo in an all hazards threat environment” is the mission statement for the Air Force's Emergency Management (EM) Program. So when seven members of the 121st Air Refueling Wing's EM Flight arrived at Volk Field, Wisconsin for PATRIOT North 18, that is exactly what they trained to do.

PATRIOT North 18 is an annual training exercise that took place at the Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center and the Fort McCoy Total Force Training Center in Wisconsin July 17 – 19, 2018. The exercise focused on preparing civilian and military entities to work together in the same way they would during disasters. It also tested the Wisconsin Emergency Management and National Guard’s abilities to support response operations in simulated emergency scenarios. This year's exercise simulated an earthquake which created collapsed buildings, mass casualties and the need for search and rescue.

“This is a different animal than what we get when deployed or even at our home station,” said Master Sgt. Bruce Campbell, the noncommissioned officer in charge for the 121st ARW during the exercise. “This is a more of a homeland support function, which fits into our Air Guard role of homeland defense or homeland support. Integrating with all of the civilian entities that are here is something that we can't get while we're deployed or working an incident on our home base.”

The seven members participating for the 121st were split up into different functional areas during the PATRIOT exercise. Staff Sgt. Nick Braun, Staff Sgt. Alex Voss and Master Sgt. Bruce Campbell were all assigned to the Incident Command Post (ICP). The ICP utilizes the Incident Command System (ICS) to coordinate resources and services to respond to a natural or man-made disaster.

“ICS is a management system designed to enable efficient incident management by integrating all resources and activities into a common organizational structure,” said Campbell. “We were embedded with the Wisconsin Incident Management Team and made rotations to the major functional areas of Operations, Logistics and Planning.”

Tech Sgt. Jeremy Thomas, Staff Sgt. Landon Foreman, Senior Airman Eli Smurthwaite and Senior Airman Marquise Cornish each took part in rotations training in the Mobile Emergency Operation Centers (MEOC), Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) response teams, and made entries into simulated clandestine labs. A clandestine lab is a place where illegal drugs, such as methamphetamine, are produced.

“We have teams that can embed with the Civil Support Teams (CST) just like we have on base. They have a lot of assets they can deploy in the field in the case of an emergency, such as CBRN assets, communications assets and video assets as well,” said Campbell.

One of the focuses of PATRIOT North 18 was the collaboration of the National Guard with other local and government entities. Civilians, volunteers and National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from over 20 states participated in this year’s exercise, including personnel from local hospitals, Team Rubicon, The Salvation Army, FEMA and the Civil Air Patrol.

“There's no way we can replicate this kind of large scale exercise at home,” said Staff Sgt. Nick Braun, an emergency manager with the 121st Air Refueling Wing. “Everybody from the Salvation Army to the Army to the Air Force to civilian search and rescue teams are here. It is a huge mixture and it's extremely beneficial to learn how it all comes together. It's been an invaluable experience.”