News: Can you hear me now? Communications tested during multi-agency training
Story by Sgt. Lauren Twigg
PHOENIX – Agencies from across the state, and some from as far as Virginia, attended Vital Connection here, Sept. 12–15.
Vital Connection is a U.S. Northern Command endorsed interoperability communications exercise, which involves local, tribal, state and federal agencies in an effort to eliminate communication interferences in a time of wide-spread emergency.
“This is an assembly of all communications – local, tribal, Air Force, Army, Northern Command, and many others,” said Army Lt. Col. Robert Kimberlin, the manager of communications systems operations for the Arizona National Guard. Kimberlin helped manage the planning and set-up of Vital Connection. “This training will help us later with having a more organized system when we really need to communicate in the event of an emergency.”
More than 40 different agencies and 260 personnel participated in this event, making this the largest training event yet hosted in Arizona. The scope of this exercise provided the opportunity for those involved to directly interact, helping put a face to each name.
“This gives us a chance to gather a visual of assets so we know what we have in the future, and when an emergency does happen, you’ve already met the guys on the other end of that line; the relationship has already been established, which goes a long way to solving problems quickly,” Kimberlin said.
Within the exercise handbook provided to all participants, it is explained that this operation consists of all the agencies practicing communications while being evaluated and assessed by a command center, in order to gauge how all the different agencies can work together in the event of an emergency.
“We are providing two satellite uplinks, and several types of communications – pretty much everything a commander could need in an emergency management situation,” said Sgt. Nicholas Emmerling, a communications and signal support specialist with the 49th Military Police Brigade from the California National Guard. Emmerling and his crew provided a large portion of equipment.
As a precursor to what is to follow in November with Vigilant Guard, a state-wide exercise, this week was devoted to working out the flaws of communication equipment and establishing a working protocol of communication among the participating agencies.
“So far it’s been going good – we’ve already had some lessons learned and obstacles overcome,” Emmerling said. “It’s absolutely necessary that we have this training. All this different technology is great, but if we can’t actually use it to its fullest extent, it’s just wasted money.”