News: This is only a test: Disaster hits Indiana
Story by Spc. Anthony Zane
MUSCATATUCK, Ind.— Before the internet and social media, wireless technology and television, society relied on the radio. Not satellite radio, but good old-fashioned, battery-operated radio. In some emergency situations, that basic radio could mean the difference between life and death.
Muscatatuck radio station and public affairs soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas, operating the station, play a vital role during Vibrant Response’14, Jul. 21-Aug. 8 at the Mascatatuck Urban Training Complex in Butlerville, Indiana.
“We are facilitators for this mission here to assist the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard,” said Sgt. Carlos Gonzales, a broadcast journalist with the 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment at Fort Hood. “From there, we bridge over to having active duty support, local, state and National Guard agencies that we will be assisting.”
“The radio station represents an actual radio station in the city that the role-play is going on in,” said Brad Staggs, programming director for Radio Muscatatuck.
With the prevalence of cell phones, internet, satellite TV and radio and the ease of communicating information with the click of a button, why would a basic radio broadcast be so important in a situation such as this?
“Muscatatuck Radio plays classic pop and rock, but will put out an exercise emergency message that involves the role play to make it that much more realistic,” Staggs said.
Sgt. Ange Desinor, print journalist with the 13th Public Affairs Detachment at Fort Hood, is working in a radio station for the first time and thinks that this experience is important because during a disaster radio is likely the only way to spread information.
“The one thing you will find in a city that is in distress is the radio station is still active because radio stations will have a generator and the only people who have any kind of media at that point are the people with battery-powered or hand-crank radios,” said Staggs. “They’ll be listening to see what is going on with that emergency situation.”
The training provided to military members at the radio station is just as important as the field training exercise happening on the MUTC grounds according to Staggs.
“What we are here for is to train those people who are out there responding with how to deal with the local media and how to deal with that local radio station,” Staggs said, “while, at the same time, the military folks who are running the radio station get a lot of practice how to run a radio station.”
“Radio Muscatatuck acts as a command information channel for anybody in the area, anybody and everybody that has a part in the vibrant response exercise,” Gonzales said.
As National Guard members work closely alongside various local, state and federal agencies just outside the radio station windows to train for a real-life catastrophic event, the training going on inside the station is just as essential.
“We have a small role looking at the big picture,” said Gonzales, a resident of Salinas, California, “but, at the same time, it’s a big role because in real life, if the internet goes down and if there is no television, you can always find a little radio that’s battery operated to be able to tune in and hear the local broadcast and the information people will get could be the difference between life and death.”
Desinor, a native of Boynton Beach, Florida, is new to the radio side of her role as a journalist but takes her role in the training seriously, broadcasting emergency messages over the air throughout the exercise.
“I’ve really been enjoying the exercise and at the same time I’m a little nervous because we’re actually on the air,” said Desinor, talking about her experience as she sits in front of the radio mic in a room with walls lined of sound-deadening foam making the space ultra quiet, “but it’s been fun so far.”
Vibrant Response is a field training exercise conducted by U.S. Northern Command and managed by U.S. Army North with the purpose of providing training to civilians and military members, as well as other state and federal agencies, to ensure the proper response to a catastrophic domestic incident.
Tune into Muscatatuck Radio at www.radiomutc.com for updates on the VR’14 exercise.