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October Chief's Perspective

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Camille Caldwell
  • 169th Medical Group

Individual preparedness for natural disasters and response has become a norm for military service. In addition to being a traditional Air National Guard member, I have lived in many parts of the U.S. that suffered the devastating effects of tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and fires. Are you ready to respond at a moment’s notice to assist as needed, wherever needed, in the event of a natural disaster? If so, is your family, civilian employment, and school commitments also taken care of in order to allow your military service with limited distractions?  

In 2018, I had the opportunity to attend the Department of Defense (DoD), Defense Support of Civil Authorities Course (DSCA), Phase II, Fort Hood, Texas. The course was not only eye-opening for what needed to be done to prepare the 169th Medical Group for an appropriate response to a tasking, but also how crucial it was to learn how to work with other DoD components, like the U.S. Army. The natural disaster case studies and group exercises presented in the course opened up dialogue on how to merge our military capabilities to support civil authorities. The blending of the military branches along with the civil authorities required an understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities to ensure a seamless response. It is paramount to have these discussions ahead of time to save time and avoid misunderstandings. The course was invaluable for joint military response environments.

The impact of military responses over the years has left a positive impact on communities nationwide.  Civilians observe confident, competent, well-trained military personnel that are willing to sacrifice the comforts of their homes, time with their families, and absence from work to serve. It is important once we are called upon or volunteer to step forward that we come prepared and remove distractions to concentrate on those that have lost their home, work, school, and loved ones in a natural disaster. I stay tuned to the news and keep a response bag packed in my car, work office, and home in order to prevent delays (especially since I reside outside the local area).   

Hurricane Michael hit Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, in October 2018. I volunteered to accompany several members of the 169th Civil Engineer Squadron. It was by far the best hands-on learning experience with an outstanding group of people from the SCANG. However, I arrived not as prepared as I thought when I realized personal hygiene items were scarce – toilet paper, baby wipes, hand soap, hand sanitizer. Each day got better with supplies coming in to the base along with additional manpower.  We worked alongside an Airman named Hope. Hope could no longer sit in her hurricane damaged home and wait for help. Instead, Hope chose to come to the base and help clean out the flooded offices in her work center. I was impressed with her resiliency and positive attitude. She wanted to get back to a normal life as soon as possible and was thrilled help arrived to the base. 

I want to stress the importance of responding to a natural disaster as if you are going on an extended camping trip alone. This way, you can bring everything you need and not assume it will be provided for you – work gloves, safety goggles, facemask, sleeping bag, flashlight, rain poncho, toiletries, laundry detergent, snacks, Leatherman tool, first aid kit, etc. Remember, you are needed because the civilian authorities have depleted their manpower and resources and have requested a military response. Therefore, let us continue to demonstrate what the Swamp Fox can bring to the mission and show up prepared!