BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Airmen from the 234th Intelligence Squadron and 222nd Intelligence Support Squadron participated in the PATRIOT 21 exercise, June 14 – 17, 2021, at Volk Field Air National Guard Base, Wisconsin.
The Airmen’s focus during the exercise was supplying intelligence support for Domestic Operations (DOMOPS) disaster training scenarios.
“We knew going in it was going to be a natural disaster exercise that we were going to be responding to, but really that’s all we knew before arriving,” said Staff Sgt. Keith Montague, 234th IS intelligence analyst. “We teamed up with a group of Guard folks from Indiana and our mission as group was to provide as much intelligence as we could from the assets that we had in the air such as the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft. “
The PATRIOT exercise tests the National Guard’s abilities to support response operations during natural disasters utilizing simulated emergency scenarios: strong storms bringing high winds, storm surges creating a collapsed building, mass casualties, and the need for Search and Rescue along with evacuations of injured. The National Guard, Emergency Management Agency and Office of Homeland Security, along with local, state, and federal partners.
The exercise provided opportunities to test their expertise in the field working in conjunction with other units and agencies.
“My group split off one of the days and we used the HARRIER system, it is a small satellite that can provide Wi-Fi in remote locations,” said Montague. “We were in the woods with 12-15 different agencies including law enforcement, military and volunteers and we were doing a search and rescue mission. Using the system we were able to set up a command post and provide communications between all the different agencies on the ground.”
Montague reflected on the collaboration between the two units and different career fields.
“For me this was pretty cool and unique, we deployed with Staff Sgt. Prasad from the 222nd ISS who is a communications airman. Comm and Intel are always closely linked but our individual jobs usually don’t overlap that much. This was really cool because we were able to link up with him as far as setting up these systems,” said Montague. “They are usually the ones who are setting up and running the systems that we need to do our job but on this trip we got to learn how to do it ourselves.”
For the airmen it proved to be a new experience that has allowed them to bring valuable technical knowledge back home to California.
“It’s really beneficial that we learned how to use these systems hands on and trouble shoot them,” said Staff Sgt. Nicholle Uhleman, 234th IS intelligence analyst. “We had a few issues one of the days getting a system up and going, and figuring out how to get it online was a great experience. Now we are able to take that home and potentially use it in a natural disaster scenario.“