News: Florida Guard Trains to Keep Communications in Hurricane Season
Story by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa
CAMP BLANDING JOINT TRAINING CENTER, Fla. - Torrential rains gave a realistic backdrop to National Guard training here last week, as Soldiers and Airmen prepared their emergency response efforts for the hurricane season, which begins June 1.
More than 100 members of the Florida National Guard completed three week-long courses this month, learning how to operate mobile Regional Emergency Response Network systems.
The systems are capable of providing high-speed Internet connectivity for computers and signal strength for hand-held radios. The RERNs use a variety of frequencies to provide defense support to civilian authorities in emergencies, helping them assist in disaster recovery.
This is the fourth year the RERN classes have been held here. Despite the soggy weather, the trainees studied all aspects of the systems, including troubleshooting, basic repair, and responding to the communications needs of their customers in the field. The course even included a "night operation" in which the Soldiers and Airmen set up and operated the systems in the dark.
The Florida National Guard has 17 RERN systems available for emergency response missions. They have been used by Florida National Guard members in disaster recovery operations in Florida, Texas, Louisiana and Kentucky, and even during the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration ceremony in Washington.
Air Force Lt. Col. Loretta Lombard, 290th Joint Communications Support Squadron commander, said nearly 90 percent of her squadron has attended the training and about half of her airmen have operated the systems during missions.
"It's a mission they enjoy, and we're very happy to help Florida and other states," Lombard said. "We're hoping for a quiet [hurricane] season, but we're very prepared for whatever it might bring."