VOLK FIELD AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Wis. — When a natural disaster strikes, the efforts of government and civilian organizations are required to support relief operations. Coordination among these organizations may occur after a tornado, flooding, a HAZMAT incident, or another type of state emergency. National Guard units along with state and civilian agencies work together to provide life-saving services and emergency response.
PATRIOT North 2017 exercise, being conducted now, is a domestic operations (DOMOPS) exercise that provides an opportunity for these organizations to coordinate realistic and relevant training to prepare for a disaster or state emergency.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col Roger Brooks, PATRIOT North exercise director, is assigned to plan realistic DOMOPS training and coordinate between all agencies and National Guard units participating in the exercise. His focus is to increase the understanding of the coordination, policies, and procedures required in conducting a Joint Inter-Agency domestic response.
"It's what we are trained to do wartime, but now we are doing those tasks in a domestic environment," said Brooks. During a state emergency, National Guard units are ready to support civilian authorities including and relief agencies. In Brooks' eyes, having civilian partners in a military exercise is an asset and crucial to successful DOMOPS.
PATRIOT North 2017 is organized by NGB, but civilian leaders are invited to assist with the planning. "The civilian leaders will help with the command and control portion of what goes on during the event," Brooks said. "They want to know what that looks like — working side-by-side with us."
This aspect of the training has paid off, specifically for the state of Wisconsin. In the summer of 2016, eight counties in Northern Wisconsin were devastated by major floods. A state of emergency was issued and several Guard units were called to state active duty in order to assist local authorities and civilian agencies during the relief effort.
"The processes that we exercised here and had in place gave the state of Wisconsin a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to operate off of, so there wasn't any lag in communication," said Brooks.
In addition to last year's flooding, 85 National Guard members were called to state active duty, and supported flood relief efforts in the Kenosha, Racine and Walworth counties of southern Wisconsin until Saturday, when their assignment ended.
Since 2011, PATRIOT North has become an exercise that concentrates solely on DOMOPS. Because the training has become more focused, the ability for civilian partners who operate from a limited budget has became less challenging for them to participate.
Chief Master Sgt. Robert Newell, the PATRIOT exercise logistics manager, who has been a part of the PATRIOT team for the past seven years, has been encouraged by the communication between governmental and non-governmental agencies.
When asked what stands out as being one of the most beneficial outcomes of the training, Newell said, "building bridges and relationships." He specifically highlighted the growing relationship with Team Rubicon in addition to the American Red Cross, Mile Bluff Medical Center and local emergency responders.
Team Rubicon is a non-governmental organization made up of primarily military veterans whose mission is to provide disaster relief to those affected by natural disasters. The fact that their members are former military working in a civilian capacity is a huge asset for the military leaders who aren't used to working with civilian organizations.
The scope of PATRIOT North spans 10 days at Volk Field, Fort McCoy and the Mile Bluff Medical Center and includes and advanced team that organizes the exercise leading up to the three day event. It brings together over 900 civilian and military personnel from over 40 National Guard units and other organizations.