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178th Security Forces Squadron leads security execution in domestic operations exercise

By Captain Lou Burton 178th Air Wing

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When disaster strikes, chaos can easily ensue. Protecting life and property can be a daunting task for local law enforcement when their own communities are decimated by a natural disaster. That is why members of the National Guard train to assist at a moment’s call and support local law enforcement.

A commitment to training and readiness brought 30 members of the 178th security forces squadron to train for and lead a security execution during a simulated hurricane for the domestic operations exercise known as Patriot South, February 7 to March 7.

Ohio Air National Guard security forces members from the 179th, 180th, and 121st, along with members from the Iowa and New Jersey Air National Guard, participated in the exercise with the 178th at Camp Shelby, Mississippi in a support role to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks' Special Response Team.

“One of the unique aspects of being in the Air National Guard is that our civilian counterparts take the lead, but it is essential we provide support to them,” said Major Michael Gibson, 178th Security Forces Squadron commander. “This training helps showcase to the nation that we will be there when they need us.”

The training encompassed tactical combat casualty care, medical evacuations, weapons confrontation, search and rescue, zone security, and crowd control.

After the training days were completed, participants implemented their knowledge in real-world simulations with actors and scenarios that required Airmen to follow the lead authority and make critical life-saving decisions rapidly.

“The patriot exercise is the largest domestic operations exercise in the Guard,” said Master Sgt. William Joseph Hawley, National Guard Bureau domestic operations action officer. “Over 1,800 participants came together and 220 security forces participated. These teams now have experience and domestic capabilities working with local civilian law enforcement and other partners they do not usually get an opportunity to work with such as chaplains, fatality search and recovery teams, and other entities. So when they hit the ground in a real world disaster, they have the capability to respond and experience to draw upon.”

The partnerships played a critical role in not only developing the participant’s disaster response skillsets, but their working relationships with other members and agencies they are not as familiar with.

“In the Air National Guard, we are spread all over the state and the country,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Distel, 178th Security Forces Squadron. “Often times when we respond to disaster relief efforts within the US, we come from different squadrons and states. It is vital that we bring our members together and help them build rapport so they can better anticipate the movement of their peers and learn from one another.”

That relationship is also critical in identifying communication barriers that prevent swift action.

“In a disaster, there are seconds to help someone. If you are working in a team and use language that isn’t familiar with those you are partnering with, having to explain the acronym costs precious moments you could be using to help someone,” said Tech. Sgt. Brittany Taylor, 178th Security Forces Squadron Domestic Operations non-commissioned officer in charge.

At the end of the exercise, participants left with valuable training and skills.

“Our objective here was domestic operations,” said Tech. Sgt. Vicente Uriostegui, 178th Security Forces Squadron patrol officer and exercise participant. “If there is a catastrophe, we are trained to help people.”