Saturday, May 21, 2011

Joint Air Operations Center stand-up part of National Level Exercise 2011

by Capt. John T. Stamm, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ky. (AFNS) -- Kentucky Air National Guard officials stood up a joint air operations center here (Louisville IAP/Standiford Field, KY-LVH) May 16 to serve as the main command node for all of the state's fixed-wing and rotary aircraft that are participating in the largest earthquake-response exercise in U.S. history.

The week-long event, called National Level Exercise 2011, is designed to test the local, state and national response to a simulated earthquake along the New Madrid Fault. It includes participation from emergency responders in eight central states, the National Guard and multiple federal entities like the Department of Defense and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Kentucky's Joint Air Operations Center is supporting the exercise by prioritizing and allocating air assets for missions into affected areas across the commonwealth, transporting personnel and equipment, and providing aeromedical evacuation and search-and-rescue capabilities as appropriate, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kraus, who commands the JAOC and is Kentucky's Joint Forces Air Component commander.

"Yesterday, we were alerted to the simulated earthquake, reported for duty, set up our facility here, checked our communication lines, and made sure our plans were in place to receive taskings and then allocate missions to either C-130 (Hercules) planes, (UH - 60) Black Hawk or whatever air assets we might have," he said. "The initial focus was on search and rescue, so our job was to get teams from different parts of the state into the affected areas, primarily the 24 western Kentucky counties deemed most at risk from a New Madrid earthquake."

Kentucky Air Guard officials also performed airfield assessments May 16, flying a joint team of Air and Army National Guardsmen to airports across the state, where they conducted tests and surveys to determine which runways were undamaged by the earthquake and could support humanitarian airlift operations if necessary.