The Swamp Foxes train to enhance disaster response

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Caycee Watson, Capt. Jonathan Thompson
  • 169th Fighter Wing

In preparation for the 2019 hurricane season, the South Carolina National Guard hosted the National Guard Bureau for a test and demonstration of a tactical communications system, used to support disaster response.

The Special Operations Forces community has utilized the tactical communications kit for years and is now integrating commercial innovations with military capabilities to streamline rescue operations in environments where communications may be degraded.

“With our history of hurricane and flood responses in the past few years, we have been able to hone our information sharing with search and rescue personnel,” said Capt. Jonathan Thompson, 169th Fighter Wing intelligence officer and project officer for the test. “But as we prepare for this hurricane season, we are looking for new technologies that improve, and even transform, how we do business.”

Participants included county emergency management officials, first responders, Civil Air Patrol, and National Guard Airmen and Soldiers. South Carolina has spearheaded the interagency cooperation and information sharing with the National Guard through the Joint Disaster Intelligence and Assessment Cell.

“By leveraging innovative technologies, we can connect a tactical first responder on the ground with information gathered from an entire enterprise of analysts at the JDIAC, all on a portable device,” said Thompson. “We can use our military training for fusing intelligence overseas to identify critically affected areas or predict the greatest impacts. But we have to have a way to get that information to search and rescue experts in a way that they can take action to save lives.”

Technology alone isn’t enough to solve the state’s problems in a disaster, according to Thompson. Having a human-in-the-loop is critical to maximizing technology integration into our operations.

“We are using this opportunity to develop and test tactics together with new technologies in the field to make more progress, faster,” said Thompson.

Some of the scenarios included streaming high-quality video of damaged infrastructure to an off-site engineer for analysis, connecting military and civilian radios on different frequencies, and using airborne video and GPS to direct a rescue team to a person in distress.

This test also allowed the 169th Security Forces Squadron to test their newest domestic operations radio system.

“We can’t afford to operate in stovepipes anymore. We had an opportunity to test the latest radios available and integrate them into the system to ease the burden if an actual event occurred,” said Thompson.