Tasked with providing video capabilities for survey aircraft here in Florida, our eight-person crew with the 152nd Communications Flight, Nevada Air National Guard, have witnessed the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma — collapsed bridges, boats run aground, flooded buildings, downed power lines and long lines at gas stations.
We flew into Fort Lauderdale on Monday and this week have worked out of Belle Glade State Municipal Airport, Palm Beach International Airport and Everglade City. We received word of the activation Saturday to report to an airport in Mississippi. Those orders changed Monday morning as we boarded one of our unit’s C-130 H aircraft from the Nevada Air National Guard Base in Reno.
Instead of Mississippi, we headed for Belle Glade, an airport south of Lake Okeechobee.
We’ve worked as the command and control communications element providing live video for search and rescue crews.
With the unit’s Joint Incident Site Communications Capability system, or JISCC, our airmen have provided a live video feed taken from a camera on a RC-26 aircraft and distributed to the joint operations center. This allows civilian and military authorities in the region to task rescue aircraft with new locations to respond for emergency search and rescue.
After receiving the JISCC equipment in 2015, the 152nd Communications Flight participated in multiple training exercises, including the Vigilant Guard in Hawaii and Cascadia Rising in Washington State last year, but this is the first time we’ve activated for real natural disaster response.
The team is doing great. A local civilian pilot let us stay at his house last night after he saw us sleeping near the JISCC trailer. His neighborhood came together to make us dinner and breakfast. It certainly was a great act of kindness and our airmen appreciated the gesture.
I’m amazed by the vast amount of people still displaced. We know of one county where as of today it was still only accessible by boat. Local officials were asking for any kind of assistance. Few businesses are open in the area.
We don’t know how much longer we will be here, but given the devastation, we’re more than willing to continue helping in any way possible.
These types of stateside missions, helping communities and people in our nation, are fulfilling — and we hope we’re making Reno, the Nevada Air National Guard and the 152nd Airlift Wing proud.
Capt. Greg Green is the commander of the 152nd Communications Flight, Nevada Air National Guard.