Sharing of information key in Guard’s response to state emergencies

2nd Lieutenants Stan Edwards (left) and Hans Brosbol, both of the Missouri Wing of the Civil Air Patrol's Gateway Senior Squadron, check aerial sensor equipment prior to the first sortie of the day from Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield, Missouri. (Civil Air Patrol photo by Lt. Col. David A. Miller)


By Bill Phelan

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - A new collaboration between the Missouri Army and Air National Guard is paying dividends as Guard troops mobilized in response to recent natural disasters.

During the Guard response to flooding in southeast Missouri, the 157th Air Operations Group, headquartered at Jefferson Barracks in south St. Louis County, provided real-time incident awareness and assessment via civilian and military aircraft to responding Army Guard troops and civilian authorities. Such information could also prove valuable in the Guard response to the Joplin tornado.

"This is the first time that we've had Air Guard personnel at state headquarters performing this function," said 157th Tech. Sgt. Matthew Carey, of St. Louis.

"The Air National Guard possesses an incredible intelligence capability," added 2nd Lt. Adam Kniffen, of Arnold, an Army Guard intelligence officer at Joint Force Headquarters in Jefferson City. "The 157th Air Operations Group is the single largest intelligence entity within the Missouri National Guard. They give us the capability to request and manage the aerial collection of information that we could not collect on our own because of staffing and equipment."

Kniffen said sensors mounted on military or Civil Air Patrol aircraft provide photographs and streaming video which can be invaluable information for responders on the ground. For example, airborne sensors might spot a motorist or livestock stranded in flood waters or alert troops to a flooded road that was passable just hours earlier.

"The sensor capability can give military commanders or civilian first-responders a better picture of the environment they will be working in," Kniffen said. "The challenging part is how quickly can you get that aircraft in the air, how well can you communicate what you want to see to the pilots, and how quickly can you gather and disseminate that information in a timely fashion and get to the commanders so they know how to respond. We would not have been able to do that without the 157th."

Aerial imagery could also prove valuable to the 139th Airlift Wing of St. Joseph, which is standing by with C-130 transport planes in the event they are needed to ship personnel or equipment to Joplin.

"We would be a user of the 157th product if tasked to respond," said Lt. Col. Kimberly McDaniel, the wing intelligence officer. "We might request information about airfield safety and that could come from 157th imagery analysis. It's that kind of information that keeps our air crews safe to deliver what's required. If we need that product, it's nice to know it's available."

Capt. Dan Schepers, of Springfield, Mo., a 157th joint collection manager, is one of those responsible for disseminating information collected by the airborne sensors. Schepers said it is gratifying to work with the Army Guard as part of the mission.

"In years past, state emergency duty was mostly an Army Guard function and the Air Guard hasn't really played a role," he said. "We've filled sandbags in the past but really haven't integrated into the operations center. This was not a mission that could be accomplished from the air or ground only so I think we complimented each other very well."

Schepers emphasizes that aerial imagery equipment is never used for surveillance on civilians.

Because of the success of the intelligence collaboration, Schepers said the close working relationship between the Air and Army National Guard will continue.

"This relationship is not going to stop after state emergency duty," he said. "My goal is to do some exchange between Army and Air Guard intelligence on a quarterly basis."

"This sets a precedent for future state emergencies and training," added McDaniel. "In the future this will be a standing requirement for the 157th.

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For more information about this release, please contact UPAR Bill Phelan at 314-416-6639 or cell, 314-556-5428 or e-mail .

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