By Master Sgt. Matt McCoy, 184th Public Affairs
MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE—The 184th Intelligence Wing, Kansas Air National Guard, activated seven Airmen to provide stateside emergency assistance to Nebraska for flooding response, March 23.
The recent “bomb cyclone” that swept through the Midwest caused more than $1 billion of flood damage to Nebraska’s Missouri River Basin and three-fourths of its 93 counties; prompting Gov. Pete Ricketts to initiate emergency actions.
As part of the emergency response, civilian authorities submitted a request for an Unclassified Processing Analysis and Dissemination team, or UPAD, in which Air National Guardsmen provide Geospatial Imagery Support products.
With readiness and domestic operations being top priorities in the 184th IW, the Fighting Jayhawks activated the UPAD shortly after the call came in.
“The UPAD is used to provide reach-back to, or help an affected state with its overflow workload,” said Master Sgt. John Gray, non-commissioned officer in charge of the UPAD. “We answer questions that a civilian incident commander may have so they can make decisions.”
The UPAD uses aerial footage from civilian planes and satellites to create and distribute visual products for incident commanders. The products include videos and before-and-after images with descriptions and graphics that highlight areas of concern, critical structures and landmarks.
“We find out about dams that may be damaged or starting to leak, or levies that are starting to overflow,” said Gray.
The purpose of the UPAD is not to make decisions or provide guidance, but rather, to provide timely, informative products to the right people so they can make well-informed, life-saving decisions.
“The biggest priority at this point, letting them know about the lines of communications,” said Gray.
Lines of communication is a term used to describe ways in and ways out of certain locations, which are especially vital for emergency crews. These include open roads, helicopter landing sites, runways and points of distribution for supplies, people and equipment.
At the time of the activation, the Nebraska emergency had transitioned from a search and rescue stage to a recovery stage.
“During the recovery stage, we’re doing a lot of pre and post imagery that can be provided to them so they can decide where to focus their efforts,” said Gray. “Right now, they have a list of 90 points of interests that they have specific questions for. Our goal is to get the priority ones and priority twos answered [immediately].”
Most of the Airmen serve as Air National Guard intelligence analysts, which perfectly aligns with the needs of the UPAD. Other Airmen serve as IT specialists who maintain and operate communications equipment.
“Without our IT people here to support us, we’re dead in the water,” said Gray. “If something broke, without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing.”
For the UPAD members, taking care of their neighbors is the reason why they volunteer to help.
“It’s actually one of the most gratifying things we do out here at the 184th,” said Gray. “You can ask anyone who does this; being able to help people within the continental United States…it’s gratifying.”