May Commander's Corner
By Col. Scott Lambe, JFHQ-SC
/ Published April 25, 2013
MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, South Carolina -- On a recent trip back from a spring break vacation, I watched "The Impossible", a movie about the real life experience of a family that survived the tsunami that hit Thailand in 2004, good movie. The devastation, from this event as most remember, was tremendous as well as the need for medical and humanitarian assistance for the survivors. This led me to start thinking about a similar disaster occurring in S.C. and how we as members of the SCANG would be called into action to support the preparation and recovery actions for such an event. Okay, it was not just the movie but also the fact that I just moved into the position of Joint Force Headquarters Director of Operations, where Domestic Operations is one of my primary concerns, namely Defense Support to Civilian Authorities (DSCA).
There are numerous examples of Army and Air National Guard involvement in recent natural and man-made disasters. For Hurricane Katrina, 58,000 guardsmen were involved in recovery operations. "The Air National Guard evacuated more than 2,500 people with medical needs, treated more than 8,000 patients in expeditionary medical support facilities and flew 3,350 sorties." (Hurricane Katrina: National Guard's Finest Hour, 8/28/06). More recently as a result of the Boston Marathon bombing, the Massachusetts ANG deployed a Joint Incident Site Communications Capability (JISCC) communications bridge to help with relief efforts for local emergency responders. At McEntire we have a JISCC which will be used this May in Ardent Sentry, an exercise to test the SCNG's ability to respond to a hurricane and other related disasters.
In the recent past, members of the SCANG have been called on to provide DSCA. In 2010, when a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, 13 members of the 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron deployed to Haiti to provide air traffic control and airfield management services for the airport in Port Au Prince. For Hurricane Sandy, Eagle Vision provided much needed satellite photos to assist with damage assessment and recovery operations.
While the primary mission of the 169th Fighter Wing is to train and equip for our federal mission, and will remain that way, it is very likely that sometime in the future we will be called upon to help out our neighbors in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. S.C. and our surrounding states face potential exposure to hurricanes, earthquakes, forest fires, terrorist attacks, and nuclear incidents. Any one of these events might result in members of our unit being called upon to use the training and skills that they have developed to support the federal mission to save lives and preserve property in our state. While it is unlikely that we will be using our F-16's in the DSCA mission, we do have many other resources that could be used. It is easy to think of our medical, civil engineering, air traffic control or services personnel to find themselves in demand, but the list does not stop there. There are many more possibilities. In my office we are currently working on a new system to report the status of personnel and equipment in the 169th FW to SCNG Joint Operations J3 and ultimately to The Adjutant General and the Governor of South Carolina so that they may better understand the resources that we can provide, establishing a method by which those resources may be tasked. In addition, we are developing plans and looking at exercises such as Ardent Sentry by which we can prepare and practice the employment of SCANG personnel in support of the DSCA mission
When we take our oath of office, we state that we will "support and defend.....the constitution of the State of South Carolina" and "will obey the orders of the.....Governor of the State of South Carolina" in addition to the President and the Constitution of the United States. This means while our focus may be on our federal mission and the upcoming Readiness Inspection, it might be that our next major event will be a hurricane that hits S.C. this fall. We need to be ready to answer the call.