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106th Rescue Wing host joint exercise for the second consecutive year

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sean Madden
  • 106th Rescue Wing

F.S. GABRESKI AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y. (Nov. 6, 2022) – For the second consecutive year the New York National Guard hosted a joint exercise to maximize readiness in the event of a storm related disaster, at the 106th Rescue Wing, Westhampton Beach, N.Y., November 4-6.

Military and civilian authorities made up of the New York Army and Air National Guard, Naval Militia and the New York Guard, with Department of Homeland Security Emergency Services (DHSES), formed the Joint Task Force for Exercise Hurricane Madison.

This year, the disaster was modeled on Super Storm Sandy, Tropical Storm Ida and Hurricane Gloria, which was the last hurricane to make landfall on Long Island, said Capt. Douglas Duncan, Officer in Command of the exercise and a co-lead, exercise planner.

Each of the three storms significantly affected Long Island in different ways that helped build the model for this storm, explained Duncan.

Power outages caused by Super Storm Sandy in 2012, severe urban flooding caused by Tropical Storm Ida in 2015, and the landfall and track of Hurricane Gloria in 1985, inspired the main elements of Exercise Hurricane Madison. The eye of the simulated storm made landfall near the border of Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Limited access due to flooding was a major issue for the Joint Task Force to contend with. Assisting civilian counterparts with overcoming limited access is something the military is equipped to handle.

A lot of simulated requests for high-axel vehicles, all terrain assets like our trucks and HUMVEEs, especially from the utility companies who needed to get damage assessment teams to do surveys in areas only we could get to, Duncan explained. Additionally, the Mobile Emergency Response Center (MERC), was on standby.

Critical channels of communication such as cell towers, mobile radio repeaters and antennas, internet and phone lines, are often damaged or destroyed during a hurricane. When officials and responders need to reestablish reliable communication or extend the range of existing services, a MERC, which is equipped to address those needs, is towed to where it’s needed and set up by Airmen and Soldiers.

Because of differences in terminology verbal communication can also be an issue when many different agencies work together. Joint exercises allow these organizations to improve their ability to communicate effectively.

The importance of common language is emphasized, to mitigate situations where one military branch may not understand the terminology of another as well as civilian agencies with their own codes and language, said Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Scanlin the Joint Force Headquarters J-3 Senior Enlisted Leader and an observer for the exercise.

Communication was not an obstacle for very long nor was having a large group deal with a situation most had little experience with.

“Well you took approximately 50 folks into two different rooms and none of them had worked together to this level of a joint exercise and by the end [of the first day of the exercise] they were gelling as a complete team,” Scanlin explained.

The event, which took place over nearly three days, condensed what could be a weeks long disaster response and participants were given a barrage of scenarios at a pace meant to be as realistic, rigorous and relevant as possible.

In 20 years of experience with real world disaster response and training exercises, this one was the most effective in executing the missions given to the different sections, said Lt. Col. Jeff Sabatini Joint Task Force Commander for the exercise. The will to succeed and the positive attitudes just kept it going and got better and better each day.

The success of Exercise Hurricane Madison warranted special emphasis on one of its major participants by the lead planner.

It can’t be overstated how much DHSES contributed not only to this year’s exercise overall, but to its success as well, said Duncan. Based on experience from last year, more involvement from them was requested for this event and they delivered tremendously.

The 106th Rescue Wing, based in F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach, New York, operates and maintains the HC-130J Combat King II search and rescue aircraft, and the HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter. The 106th Rescue Wing is home to a special warfare squadron with pararescuemen and combat rescue officers, specializing in rescue and recovery, and deploys for domestic and overseas operations.