An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Indiana Air Guard Supports Joint Homeland Defense Exercise

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Roland Sturm,
  • 181st Intelligence Wing Public Affairs

MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING CENTER, Ind. - Airmen from the 181st Intelligence Wing and emergency response partners from the military, civilian and private sectors practiced emergency support operations in the four-day Homeland Defender exercise.

Homeland Defender is a recurring multi-agency, multinational exercise where emergency response personnel coordinate efforts during simulated disasters.

Exercise participants supported emergency operations in response to a simulated earthquake in the Wabash Valley seismic zone, which runs along the southern Indiana-Illinois border.

“This was a full-scale exercise with the purpose to integrate local, state, federal and military assets, as well as the private sector, to provide support to local authorities during a disaster response,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Stephanie Railey, director of military support at Indiana National Guard Joint Force Headquarters.

The 181st IW sent Airmen from the 181st Safety Office, 181st Mission Support Group, 181st Medical Group, 181st Security Forces Squadron and the 181st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group to support the exercise.

The 181st IW Airmen coordinated with members of the Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Kentucky National Guard, 95th Civil Affairs Brigade and international military partners, and emergency services partners from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, Indiana Task Force 1, Indiana Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team, Monroe Fire Protection District, Indiana State Police, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and Fort Wayne Police Department.

Railey said integrating all the partner organizations in a full-scale training exercise modeling real-world scenarios is invaluable for seamless emergency response.

“During a disaster is not the right time to build relationships,” said Railey. “Working together shows us our capabilities and limitations.”

A key focus for the 181st IW was the evaluation of the 19th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high-yield Explosives Enhanced Response Force Package Fatality Search and Recovery Team.

The 19th CERFP’s FSRT element, composed of services specialists from the 181st MSG, was under observation to complete its external evaluation.

“This exercise was our evaluation to maintain certification to respond to disasters causing mass casualties and fatalities,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. William Crady, the noncommissioned officer in charge of 19th CERFP’s FSRT element. “We respond to natural or manmade disasters assisting the local authorities in recovery of remains.”

Formed in 2008 after several events, including Hurricane Katrina, FSRT units support various entities with fatality search and recovery capabilities and are trained and equipped to operate in any environment.

“The importance of the evaluation was to ensure that we maintain the professionalism and capability to respond to disaster,” said Crady. “[It is important] not only to assist the state in the disaster but also to bring closure to the family members of the deceased.”

The 19th CERFP’s FSRT element received good news: a passing evaluation after the exercise.

Other 181st IW personnel demonstrated their value in various mission sets.

“We had everything from water rescue operations to collapsed buildings and civil unrest,” said Railey. “In every incident, there’s going to be multiple scenarios that play out.”

Throughout Homeland Defender 2023, 181st IW Airmen proved their capabilities to provide critical and strategic components of emergency response to Indiana and beyond.

Located at Hulman Field Air National Guard Base in Terre Haute, Indiana, the 181st IW provides globally integrated ISR, agile combat support and domestic response capabilities to support contingency operations worldwide while ensuring military readiness to serve the greater Wabash Valley community, state and nation.