SPRINGFIELD-BECKLEY AIR GUARD STATION, Ohio - Soggy fields of farmland stretched for miles in the flood-ravished region of southern Ohio. Staff Sgt. John, an analyst with the 178th Wing Incident Awareness and Assessment Team, identified locations that had been impacted by the near-historic flood waters, as he flew hundreds of feet above the damage in an Ohio State Highway Patrol helicopter.
Nearly 10 Airmen with the 178th Wing were put on state active duty to team up with the Ohio State Highway Patrol to provide flood relief assistance for several counties in the tri-state area earlier this week.
As the helicopter propelled them along the Ohio River, John gathered visuals of schools, power plants and other residential areas while Tech. Sgt. Jordan, an analyst with the 178th Wing IAA Team, relayed the information to other Airmen back on the ground. Once the information hit the ground, analysts were able to directly coordinate with emergency relief agencies and use the information to provide assistance.
The birds-eye view imagery provided detailed information for emergency agencies to effectively provide relief to the damaged areas. The 178th Airmen were able to leverage their technological skills with the Ohio State troopers' knowledge of the layout of the land to get help to Ohioans where it is needed most.
Some of the areas they analyzed included major areas of infrastructure, power plants, roads, lines of communication, hospitals, schools and residential areas that were affected by the floods.
Staff Lt. Justin Cromer, a helicopter pilot with the Ohio State Highway Patrol, discussed how the coordination with the National Guard benefits relief efforts.
"Everybody has specialties," said Cromer. "When you bring all those agencies together and utilize those specialties, you're going to be more effective in what you're trying to do."
The Ohio Air National Guard is unique because it has two missions, one federal and one state. Because of the state mission, the 178th Wing is able to provide defense support to civil authorities and respond to natural disasters when called using their capabilities to serve their own communities.
"Pictures are worth a thousand words, and that's what we provide them,” said Lt. Col. Audrey Kawanishi, the IAA coordinator with the 178th Wing.
Kawanishi detailed the 178th Wing's history of answering the call in times of natural disasters. Analysts previously provided imagery to decision makers when Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in several states.
"Just this past fall we were very active during Hurricane Harvey," said Kawanishi. "Previously to that we've helped West Virginia and South Carolina with their flooding."
The 178th has been the go-to unit for information analysis during times of natural disaster throughout the United States, and the recent flooding in Ohio was no exception.