National Guard tests capabilities at Vigilant Guard 2014 multi-state emergency response exercise
“Space, the final frontier.”
The Star Trek intro would be appropriate as the Army incorporates more space capabilities into its operations, including domestic emergency response operations.
The use of space operations was tested last month during the multi-state emergency response exercise, Vigilant Guard 2014, hosted by the Kansas Army National Guard as part of Joint Task Force Santa Fe in Salina, Kansas.
“Space operations and the capabilities that we normally bring to wartime are fairly new to the domestic operations realm for Kansas,” said Lt. Col. Eric Bishop, chief of the Space Support Element, 35th Infantry Division.
Augmenting Kansas’ small contingent of three personnel was Army Space Support Team (ASST) 30, 117th Space Support Battalion, Colorado National Guard.
“They have a lot more experience than we have,” Bishop said of the unique Colorado unit. “We are still learning, so having them here with their expertise is a great opportunity.”
The Colorado team — consisting of two space operations officers, two geospatial engineers, a satellite communications systems operator/maintainer, and an information technology specialist — were able to bring a new dynamic to an area of the exercise that can only be simulated.
“We are able to define the situation and help our domestic operations and civil authorities by providing them information that before this exercise Kansas had not been able to do,” Bishop said.
Flooding is one area in which ASST 30 was able to help. The team used a real-world terrain map of the Neosho River and did analyses of the flooding at different stages.
“They are able to look at the computer and, given the stage level, can tell you exactly whether this house would be flooded or that bridge would be under water,” said Bishop.
The benefit of using space technologies, according to Capt. Kevin Trabert, ASST 30 team leader, is that the information can be provided quickly from a safe location away from the dangers.
In addition to the flooding exercise, the team simulated a plume from a chemical plant leak to show areas directly impacted and in need of evacuation.
“There is no real way to simulate what a destroyed city is going to look like unless we use an example from recent history,” said Trabert. “So the way we’ve been kind of doing that is with a lot of extras on the map to make it look like the areas are damaged to try to bring some of that exercise to the real world.”
In addition to enhancing the Vigilant Guard exercise, ASST 30 shared some of their real-world experience in using space technologies in emergency response operations.
“In Colorado, we supported the Black Forest fire last summer, which was a very large fire on the outskirts of Colorado Springs,” Trabert said, explaining that it was one of the largest evacuations in Colorado history with almost 30,000 people evacuated at one point.
During their response, ASST 30 provided imagery of the fire and used satellite sensors to pick up heat energy to show exactly where the fire was. They then integrated that imagery intelligence with the Blue Force Tracking system that military forces use overseas to track emergency responders.
“We really appreciate using the ASST,” said Bishop. “They were a huge asset during Vigilant Guard, bringing with them the experience of having already responded in that role to other domestic emergencies.”
Original article by Capt. Benjamin Gruver, 105th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, appeared last month in the news section of NationalGuard.mil.