By Air Force Staff Sgt. Wendy Kuhn, 121st Air Refueling Wing
VOLK FIELD, Wis. -- Natural disasters cause a great amount of devastation each year. They can happen any time, to anyone and in any area in the world -- they do not discriminate. A quick and decisive response to these tragedies can help mitigate their impact.
To that end, about 900 military members and civilian emergency management personnel and responders are coming together for a domestic operations training exercise sponsored by the National Guard Bureau at the Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center here and at the Fort McCoy Total Force Training Center, Wisconsin, that began yesterday and ends tomorrow.
Patriot North 18 is an annual training exercise that this year is focusing on preparing civilian and military entities to work together in the event of a disaster. This exercise tests the Wisconsin Emergency Management and National Guard’s abilities to support response operations through simulated emergency scenarios, such as an earthquake that causes collapsed buildings, mass casualties and the need for search and rescue.
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Gallegos, the fire chief for the California Air National Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno, is participating in the exercise along with some of his firefighters.
“This exercise gives our firefighters an opportunity to gain operational skills and tactical training,” Gallegos said. “It allows them to focus more on their training and gives them the opportunity to move into different positions.”
Civilians, volunteers and National Guard soldiers and airmen from more than 20 states are participating in this year’s exercise, which includes personnel from the Mile Bluff Medical Center, Team Rubicon, the Salvation Army, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Civil Air Patrol. The exercise will help the National Guard improve cooperation and relationships with its regional, civilian, military and federal partners in preparation for emergencies and catastrophic events, officials said.
“Many guardsmen haven’t had the opportunity to work in this type of environment, and Patriot gives our soldiers and airmen a chance to hone their skills to respond to a natural disaster and work with emergency management agencies,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Roger Brooks, the exercise director. “This exercise will help all of us prepare for any disaster.”