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Air National Guard communications play key role during Ardent Sentry exercise

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jim St.Clair
Members from the South Carolina Air National Guard's (SCANG) 169th Communications Flight provided critical communications support during the statewide Ardent Sentry exercise May 17-21. Along with two Army Guard teammates, six SCANG members ran the Joint Incident Site Communications Capability (JISCC) suite that was set up at the Joint Operations Center (JOC) at the Pine Ridge armory in West Columbia.

Ardent Sentry is a NORAD and USNORTHCOM sponsored exercise for participating military units to practice disaster response activities and coordination procedures. The S.C. National Guard had more than 1,500 Soldiers and Airmen conducting field training in seven counties in southeastern S.C. plus the Dept. of Energy's Savannah River Site.

The S.C. National Guard's portion of Ardent Sentry entails a simulated hurricane striking South Carolina's coast. Response capabilities tested for the exercise included water purification, helicopter sling-load operations, debris removal, points of distribution support, hazardous materials response, search and rescue and cyber-threat response.

"The JISCC is an initial communications element for first responders," said 1st Lt. Michael Wingrave, an Air Guardsman from Charleston, S.C. "We would respond to an area that has been devastated. When we get there, we provide communications to enable radio, internet and telephones for approximately 12-15 users such as fire chiefs and police chiefs."

As many first responders discovered during 9-11, often times their communications tools are not compatible. The JISCC is designed to bridge that gap by acting as a translator, so to speak. "The JISCC's purpose is to talk to different types of radios and then allow them to talk to one another," said Wingrave. "If you have an 800 megahertz radio and I have a UFH radio, we can't talk to one another. But with the JISCC, we can talk."

During Ardent Sentry, the JISCC also provided communications for the "White Cell" or inspectors, as well as providing back up communications for the Joint Operations Center explained Wingrave. The JISCC was set up in its own special tent collocated next to the JOC.

In addition to the Communications Flight, many other SCANG members participated in the exercise including personnel in Public Affairs, the Joint Visitors Bureau and the 169th Exercise Evaluation Team.