Guardsmen essential during storms

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt Emily Alley
  • 190th ARW Public Affairs
Some Kansans lost power, heat and water when the ice storm hit. The swath of snow that followed didn't help boost morale, but Kansas Guardsmen did. 

Several thousand Kansans lost power during the severe weather in mid-December, said Lt. Col. Rus Curtis. "That created other problems for obvious reasons." 

The Joint Operations Center (JOC) coordinated efforts among all Kansas Guard units to help citizens who were affected by the hazardous conditions. Both the Army and Air National Guard aggressively pursued humanitarian missions, jointly, throughout the state. 

"When this started, the JOC went to 24/7 operations," said Curtis. "We went to expanded operations as well, 0600 to 2400 daily through the weekend." 

Volunteers from the 190th ARW and other Kansas Guard units served at the JOC, these units included Emergency Management, Ops, Communication Flight, Readiness Flight and the 127th Weather Fight. 

Only about 30 weather units exist in the country, and the 127th Weather Flight is the only such organization in Kansas. The advantage of the office is the ability to analyze a specific area in detail, rather than a generic forecast for the region. Volunteers from the Weather Flight worked 24 hours a day for a week to provide continuous weather updates to the JOC. 

"If we weren't here, they would have turned on the weather channel," said Tech. Sgt. Tony Snyder, a meteorological technician who coordinated forecasting during the storms. 

Unfortunately, most civilian broadcasts during that time were too general. Units within the state required precise details on how the storms would affect their missions. 

The Weather Flight provided continuous updates to all levels of command within Kansas during the hazardous conditions. Snyder has continued providing updates to the JOC while emergency conditions are possible. 

"Commanders were aware of the impending snow storm," said Snyder. "We played a really big role in forecasting." 

The units' reaction to joint operations was to stay flexible. Representatives from FEMA arrived several days ahead of schedule; the 190ARW adapted to the new situation. 

"We were able to blend together and didn't loose response time," said Maj. Michael Robinson, 190th Logistics Readiness Operations Officer.

Starting on Dec. 13, the 190th ARW was assigned missions, through the JOC, to maintain disaster relief. The base served as a FEMA staging point, storing and distributing cots, generators and water. Guardsmen worked jointly, both Army and Air Force members, to distribute and maintain support. Some volunteers cleared debris so utility crews could restore infrastructure. The Services Flight provided accommodations for Army guard troops while they waited for missions at Forbes Field. 

The disaster gave the Medical Group an opportunity to use the Expeditionary Medical Support System, which was employed earlier in the year during missions in Greensburg.
"This falls squarely in that peg for state-duty," said Curtis.