Guardsmen complete disaster relief training

Missouri Guardsmen with Company B, 1st Battalion, 376th Aviation Regiment, conducted a disaster relief training exercise during their two-week annual training.

The scenario, Operation Dam Busters, had Missouri Guardsmen respond to a break in the Bagnell Dam on the Osage River.

"Leading up to the exercise, about 17 unit members were trained up on the unitâ??s equipment for about ten days," said Maj. Vaughn Brown, the unit commander.

Once the training scenario kicked off, the unit was told the Bagnell Dam was expected to break. They needed to fly from Jefferson City to the dam area to make sure there werenâ??t any citizens who hadnâ??t been evacuated.

The unitâ??s OH-58 helicopter is equipped with a day, low light, and imagery camera that can be used as an asset when searching for citizens. The day mode has zoom capability, the low-light mode is good for dawn and dusk, and the thermal imaging can pick up body heat and is primarily used at night. The camera can also be used to record live video.

The unit is also equipped with an IC4U. The IC4U can hook up to a satellite which enables it to have Internet, Wi-Fi and mobile hot spots, phone connection, radio relay, radio network, air-to-ground communications, video encoding, and mobile flight operations. The unit has seven trained IC4U operators.

"During the exercise, the unit was deployed with their IC4U and tactical video receiver and transmitter, or TAC-V, to monitor the dam while using the camera on the helicopter to record live video," Brown said. "The footage from the forward looking infrared camera, or FLIR, can be downloaded to the IC4U and the IC4U can uplink it to the Internet so staff in the joint operations center can see in real-time what is going on."

The unit also received some follow-on missions where they needed to evacuate people downstream from the dam.

"Itâ??s a real-life scenario in that the computer models say that Tuscumbia would be flooded and wiped out within an hour and a half if the Bagnell Dam broke," Brown said." And the Highway 50-63 bridge at the Osage and Cole County line would be completely flooded within approximately 12 hours."

"The takeaway for us is that we are poised to operate for the vigilant guard exercise coming up this November," Brown said. "Weâ??re an asset now. If they need us to, we can set up the IC4U, go out and fly, check out the bridges, roads, or whatever the JOC needs us to do should an earthquake happen."

Vigilant Guard will be a large-scale exercise requiring the Missouri National Guard to respond to a catastrophic earthquake near the New Madrid fault. Should such a disaster occur, the Guard is working on a response plan, while fostering relationships with its civilian, military and federal partners.

"The other thing that the IC4U brings to the table is flight operations," Brown said. "Right now, to launch an aircraft weâ??d launch it out of our facility. But if we needed to move forward to another area of the state, we could set up the IC4U and launch flight operations because we would have complete Internet access, we could get the weather, and we could talk to people on the National Guard phone system."

Operation Dam Busters was considered a success.

"It was flawless," Brown said. "It went just the way it was supposed to."

Much of the training prior to the training scenario contributed to the successful exercise.

"We were very prepared for the exercise," said Sgt. 1st Class Joe Dulany, the noncommissioned officer in charge of flight operations. "A number of things could have happened like having difficulties connecting the satellite or traffic congestion. None of that happened; the exercise went just as planned."

The exercise also proved to the unit that they are mission ready.

"We learned that we can actually leave this facility with our equipment and operate as if we were in a real-life situation," Dulany said. "We had the satellite; we had Internet, e-mail, and telephone capability. And being able to receive signal from the aircraft and save it and transmit it to other interested parties like the JOC."