KINGSLEY FIELD, OR -- Chaplains from around the state of Oregon, both Army and Air National Guard, converged at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon for annual training, March 23-26.
“This year’s theme is Providing Hope in Domestic Operations,” said Col. Jacob Scott, the Oregon National Guard State Chaplain. “We wanted to take a specific look at how we as a chaplain corps provide religious support to our people in domestic operations.”
He summarized the training at Kingsley Field using two instances where his chaplains would provide care to Soldiers and Airmen. “We are preparing for “Oregon’s most likely ‘bad day’—responding to wildfires and such—or Oregon’s ‘worst day’, the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.”
Part of that training included an explanation of Devolution of Command, whereby Kingsley Field would become the command-and-control center for the entire Oregon national Guard response to a major earthquake. In that scenario, experts assume all or most Oregon National Guard resources west of the Cascade Mountain Range would be compromised and that relief efforts would flow to Kingsley Field and then transit the Cascade mountains into affected areas.
“Chaplains, whether Army or Air, always have it in their mind they will be by their Soldiers and Airman’s sides when things go wrong,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Kraig Kroeker, the 173rd Fighter Wing Chaplain. “But it is also important that the chaplains understand they may be victims themselves and incapable of serving in order to care for their own families.”
He said the training also addressed the period after federal aid, like FEMA, reaches the area in what he calls days 10-42 of the response.
“We wanted to not only get our chaplains in the mindset of surviving an earthquake and tsunami, but also making sure they and their families had a prepared mindset for being not only 14 days ready, but could they sustain their families even longer?” said Kroeker.
Twenty-three Soldiers and Airmen visited the base for the training coming from areas around the state including, Salem, the Coast, Eastern Oregon, Vancouver as well as Medford. Kroeker said the training brought into sharp focus how a person’s geographic location would affect their response to a Cascadia Earthquake; that for people on the Coast or west of the Cascade mountains, survival is the first consideration.
“There were a lot of wide eyes at that point in the training,” he said.
Scott summed up the overall objective of the training saying, “When it comes to domestic operations there are always contingencies that we’re not exactly going to have a specific plan for, but by planning and preparing in-general, we can be adaptable and flexible to support whatever our state and our nation need.”