Florida trains communications experts for upcoming hurricane season
By Tech. Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa, Florida National Guard Public Affairs
/ Published June 17, 2009
CAMP BLANDING JOINT TRAINING CENTER, Fla. (May 22, 2009) - The recent torrential rains in Florida gave a realistic backdrop to National Guard training -- as Soldiers and Airmen prepared their emergency response efforts for the upcoming hurricane season.
More than 100 members of the Florida National Guard completed three week-long courses in Northeast Florida May 5-22, learning how to operate mobile Regional Emergency Response Network (RERN) systems. The systems are capable of providing high-speed Internet connectivity to computers and laptops, and signal strength for hand-held radios. The RERNs use a variety of frequencies to provide defense support to civilian authorities in times of state-wide emergency, helping them assist in disaster recovery.
This is the fourth year the RERN classes have been held at Camp Blanding.
Despite the soggy weather, the trainees studied all aspects of the systems, including troubleshooting, basic repair, and responding to the communications needs of their "customers" in the field. The course even included a "night operation" where the Soldiers and Airmen set up and operated the systems in the dark.
The Florida National Guard currently has 17 RERN systems available for emergency response missions. They have been used by Florida National Guard members in disaster recovery operations in Florida, Texas, Louisiana and Kentucky, and even during the Presidential Inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C., earlier this year.
According to 290th Joint Communications Support Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Loretta Lombard, nearly 90 percent of her squadron has attended the training and about half of her Airmen have actually operated the systems during missions.
"It's a mission they enjoy and we're very happy to help Florida and other states," Lombard said. "We're hoping for a quiet (hurricane) season, but we're very prepared for whatever it might bring."
Hurricane season 2009 begins June 1.