News: Mississippi National Guard reacts to tornadoes
Story by Staff Sgt. Scott Tynes
GULFPORT, Miss. – Mississippi National Guard units participating in an annual exercise sponsored by U.S. Special Operations Command continued to train while assisting with emergency relief efforts April 28-29.
Severe weather spawned numerous tornadoes and dumped nearly 20 inches of rainfall throughout the Southeast April 28-29, resulting in at least 35 civilian deaths and massive damage in six states. In Mississippi, at least 13 civilians were killed April 28 and a state of emergency was declared in seven counties.
The 185th Aviation Regiment, participating in Operation Emerald Warrior, dispatched four UH-60 Black Hawks from the Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport to the damaged areas to assist in search and rescue operations, damage assessment and other emergency relief efforts.
“We provided incident awareness for the commanders on the ground and for the emergency crews,” said Col. Craig Ziemba, Magnolia Task Force commander. “We flexed CH-47s to cover for the Black Hawks on the training missions and were able to simultaneously support both missions.”
The Magnolia Task Force continued to display flexibility April 29 when the storms moved east to cause extensive damage in Florida and force the shutdown of Emerald Warrior headquarters at Hurlburt Air Force Base.
The Mississippi task force took temporary control of the exercise to allow Emerald Warrior to move forward with only minor disruptions in the training schedule.
Ziemba said accounting for weather while planning an exercise is routine, but the severity of the April storms was unexpected.
“That was a once-in-40-years storm. We didn’t plan for that one,” he said. “We didn’t plan for it, but we were prepared for it.”
The CRTC and Mississippi National Guard-led Magnolia Task Force hosts approximately one-third of the exercise’s assets, which include the Mississippi Army National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and crews of Ch-47 Chinook and UH-60 Black Hawks and support from the 185th; Mississippi Air National Guard’s KC-135 Stratotanker and RC-26B intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, air traffic controllers, and support personnel from the 186th Air Refueling Wing; and U.S. Marines from the 4th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company and 3rd Force Recon.
Mississippi’s Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center near Hattiesburg, Fort McCain in Grenada and the John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County are also participating in the exercise.