BIRMINGHAM, Ala. --
When thinking of natural disasters, the most common image is one of extreme destruction, like an engulfing flood or a menacing tornado as it barrels down the highway. We conjure up images of flying debris, cars thrown around like toys or water suddenly rising in our living rooms. But what we often don’t think of is the aftermath. Who are the people on the ground putting all of the pieces back together, making sure those affected have everything they need?
Three members of the 117th Civil Engineering Squadron took part in the Patriot South domestic training operation to better prepare for that scenario in Gulfport, Mississippi, from January 28th to February 4th 2017.
The exercise simulated a tsunami caused by an earthquake and provided valuable training to military personnel in the event of a major weather incident. It simulated the procedures of setting up the necessary equipment so that civilian first responders can get the support they would need on-site through establishing a Mobile Emergency Operations Center, or a MEOC.
“We make it clear that it’s their incident to run. We’re here to help, and we set up the facilities and they get going,” said Senior Master Sgt. Richard L. Bailey, 117 CES Installation Emergency Manager.
The skill set that members of the 117 CES learned from the exercise are more community orientated and that is a special role that guardsmen are more suited to when compared to active-duty service members, said Bailey.
When natural disasters occur and people need relief, they often expect to be surrounded by flashing blue lights and uniformed police, fire and rescue services. Most people associate the military with overseas operations, thousands of miles away, which they only ever hear about in the national news or at all.
However, the 117th Air Refueling Wing has the unique privilege to be able to assist our friends and family in our capacity as military personnel through the excellent training received from the Patriot South exercise.
It’s a special feeling when you go to help a neighborhood that’s been hit hard and it looks a lot like neighborhoods we all grew up in, and being able to provide comfort for the people living there makes for an incredible experience, said Bailey.
When our friends and family are in need, the 117 ARW can respond quickly to citizens of Alabama and the nation. This is sometimes lost with traditional military operations and sometimes seeing a familiar face in uniform makes all the difference.