Mobility Airmen exercise disaster response on anniversary of US’ largest quake
By Maj Michael Meridith, 18th Air Force
/ Published April 04, 2014
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. --
A half century after the largest earthquake in U.S. history struck Alaska, thousands of military personnel, including mobility Airmen, travelled to the state, and to locations across the country, to exercise the nation's disaster response capability.
Alongside interagency partners from the lead Federal Emergency Management Agency and state and local authorities, more than 500 Airmen and 11 aircraft from nearly a dozen Air National Guard and active duty units were essential to the success of U.S. Transportation Command's Turbo Challenge 2014 (TC 14) exercise, held from March 27 to April 3.
TC 14 is one of several linked national exercises designed to test the interagency's response in the wake of a major earthquake in the vicinity of Anchorage, Alaska. Other exercisees include U.S. Northern Command's Ardent Sentry 2014, which simulates defense support to disaster relief operations from a "cold start"and USTRANSCOM's Ultimate Caduceus which focuses on medical support, patient processing, and aeromedical evacuation.
Although primarily centered on the affected disaster area around Anchorage, the exercises also saw "live fly" flights of simulated patients from Cheyenne, Wyo., to Denver, Colo., Puget Sound, Wash., Salt Lake City, Utah, Boise, Idaho, and Portland, Ore..
According to officials, the stats are impressive: by the end of the exercise, mobility Airmen had simulated the movement of over 3,000 relief and rescue workers, the evacuation of nearly 500 patients, and the delivery of more than 3,000 tons of equipment in support of simulated relief operations. However, one of the most significant results was the strengthening of the partnerships between military and civilian authorities.
"The level of detail in preparation by exercise planners and collaboration across local, state, Air Operations Centers, functional components, combatant commands and the interagency was impressive," said Seth Beaubien, 18th Air Force's lead planner for the exercises. "Exercises like Turbo Challenge, Ultimate Caduceus, and Ardent Sentry give us the opportunity to put the totality of DoD's transportation system to bear in a complex catastrophe scenario. Alaskans and all Americans can be confident that in a defense support to civil authorities disaster situation the citizens, state, and FEMA will receive the complete and immediate support of the rapid global air mobility enterprise."
Beaubien's sentiments were echoed by Col. Tami Rougeau, Director of Patient Stage during Ultimate Caduceus, who noted "I'm proud of what our people were able to accomplish in such a short time. In a matter of hours, we were able to stand up a disaster aeromedical staging facility to oversee the aeromedical evacuation of quake victims and provide the airlift and contingency response forces needed to support relief efforts and workers. It really was amazing to be a part of it all."
Rougeau also noted the enduring value of exercises like these, made all the more apparent in the wake of the recent earthquake in Chile and tremors on the U.S.' own West Coast.
"We know disasters will continue to place intense demands on our capabilities," she said. "Fortunately, these kinds of exercises help us to build up the relationships and skills we need to respond effectively."