Kentucky’s Air Guard Exercises the Initial Response Hub

Photos by Maj. Dale Greer and Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel, Kentucky Air National Guard
Story by Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht, Public Affairs, Kentucky National Guard

CLICK HERE for more pictures from the exercise.

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A loadmaster from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing directs an all-terrain vehicle May 14, 2012, as its driver exits the cargo bay of a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 onto the flight line at Fort Campbell, Ky. The 123rd was participating in an exercise to test its response to a simulated earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, a fault line that originates near New Madrid, Mo., and stretches southwest across four states. More than 30 Kentucky Airmen, all assigned to the 123rd’s Initial Response Hub package, assessed Campbell Army Airfield for earthquake damage, determined the kinds of airlift operations the facility could support and opened the ramp for incoming relief and aeromedical evacuation flights within five hours of being called to duty. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky (May 14th, 2012) — More than 30 Kentucky Guardsmen and two C-130 aircraft from the 123rd Airlift Wing mobilized  and flew to Fort Campbell, Ky, during a no-notice exercise response to a notional 7.6 magnitude earthquake outside of St. Louis on Monday. Within three hours of the telephonic recall initiated by the Initial Response Hub Mission Commander, Col. Warren Hurst, the relief response personnel from the special tactics squadron, the contingency response group, security forces, maintenance, medical and public affairs were airborne to Western Kentucky.

“We threw the team a curve ball,” said Col. Gregory Nelson, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing. “Initially our Airmen were planning and preparing for a notional hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, as hurricane season is coming. At the last minute, we changed the entire mission and injected a New Madrid earthquake response exercise, requiring the crews to create new flight plans and prepare for a completely different scenario. This is how real life and real disasters work.”

See the video from Louisville’s Fox station, WDRB

Once at Fort Campbell, the Kentucky first air-responders assessed the runways, evaluated the air traffic routes, prepared for emergency evacuations and established voice, data and video communication with FEMA, Transportation Command, the National Guard Bureau and other vital national agencies.

“I’m a critical care nurse in the Air National Guard, and I’ve come down to help where air evac assets should be used,” said Lt. Col. David Worley from the 123rd’s medical squadron.

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Col. Warren Hurst, commander of the 123rd Contingency Response Group, briefs members of the news media at Fort Campbell, Ky., during an earthquake-response exercise May 14, 2012. About 30 Airmen from the 123rd Contingency Response Group and 123rd Special Tactics Squadron deployed to Fort Campbell to demonstrate their preparedness for an initial response after a natural disaster. The Kentucky Air Guard’s Initial Response Hub team is the first of its kind in the nation. No other unit in the U.S. military has the same breadth of capabilities housed in one unit, with the C-130 aircraft to permit immediate response. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

Accompanying the Kentucky Air Guard were eight member of the Commonwealth’s civilian media, including Lexington’s Sean Moody from WKYT. “It was an eye-opening experience,” Moody explained. “I was amazed at how fast the 123rd packed up and flew out of Louisville, landed in Campbell and so quickly went to work on the airfield.”

The earthquake relief exercise tested several lessons learned from recent real-world relief missions involving Katrina, Haiti, Japan and Pakistan. The initial response hub is a unique first air response asset that the 123rd AW can provide FEMA during any state-side disaster, natural or man-made.

“Only in Louisville have we put these capabilities together along with the C130’s to provide a rapid response to a disaster in our country,” said Nelson. “We stand ready to do this mission when our nation needs us. We have proven we can do this mission.”

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Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard use all-terrain vehicles to conduct an airfield assessment at Fort Campbell, Ky., during an earthquake-response exercise May 14, 2012. More than 30 Airmen examined all aspects of Campbell Army Airfield for simulated earthquake damage, determined the kinds of airlift operations the facility could support and opened the ramp for incoming relief and aeromedical evacuation flights within five hours of being called to duty. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

CLICK HERE for more pictures from the exercise.

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