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NEWS | March 1, 2024

Air National Guard Crisis Team Recognized for Innovation

By Master Sgt. David Eichaker, Air National Guard

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. - The Air National Guard Crisis Action Team was nominated for the 2024 General Larry O. Spencer Innovation Award for innovation that improved efficiency and operational readiness across the Air Force enterprise.

“The primary objective of the CAT is to provide ANG senior leadership with a scalable force presentation and awareness capability, specifically designed for situations that require continuous or near-continuous ANG attention and timely response to Air Force and joint staff tasking,” said Lt. Col. Michael T. Holton, director, Air National Guard Crisis Action Team. “We provide a wide range of support to not only the National Guard but also other U.S. military services and federal agencies during crisis events.”

Through $3.5 million in recent upgrades, Holton said the CAT strengthened crisis response capabilities by using new audiovisual and video teleconference technologies, improving coordination and communication and increasing situational awareness during crises.

“By incorporating their innovative methods, the enhanced operations floor allows the CAT to monitor and receive updates from multiple sources simultaneously, including major commands, joint staff, and ANG communities,” he said. “This continuous awareness ensures that the CAT remains informed and can respond promptly to changing circumstances, improving their ability to mitigate risks and address emerging challenges.”

The CAT’s use of cutting-edge technologies sets a new standard for crisis response within the Air Force, demonstrating its commitment to continuous improvement and innovation, which is why modernization of the CAT was a high priority.

“The upgrade was driven by the need to enhance communication, collaboration and situational awareness during crisis events,” said Maj. Gen. Keith G. MacDonald, commander of the Air National Guard Readiness Center. “Involvement of geographically separated agencies drove the increasing need for remote collaboration and teleconferencing capabilities, which necessitated the modernization of CAT’s audiovisual and video teleconference systems. This allowed team members to participate in crisis response efforts from different locations, improving coordination and decision-making.”

During event support, the ANG CAT is the central Air Guard point of contact for all related matters. The CAT’s contributions enhance operational continuity between commanders in the field and senior leaders at the National Guard Bureau.

“The upgraded A/V and VTC systems support collaborative decision-making by enabling multiple stakeholders to participate in virtual meetings and discussions, both classified and unclassified,” said MacDonald. “This fosters a shared senior leader understanding of the crisis and improves ANG response actions.”

With the upgrades, the CAT can leverage the latest advancements in communication, information sharing, and situational awareness and provide support around the clock for a variety of contingencies.

“Coordinating and integrating the Air National Guard’s response to crises and emergencies can include hurricanes, major flooding, civil unrest, and military contingencies,” said Senior Master Sgt. Katelyn S. Murphy, superintendent for the ANG CAT. “The CAT serves as a central hub for coordination, communication, and decision-making that connects the functional area managers with the necessary resources and information they need to fulfill their roles effectively and respond during a crisis or contingency.”

She said the CAT assisted in five activations in 2023: an unauthorized disclosure event, the Israel-Hamas conflict, and the responses to Typhoon Mawar, the Hawaii wildfire and Hurricane Idalia.

“These upgrades resulted in significant annual cost savings of 20% and improved resource allocation,” said Murphy.

“We are committed to supporting the Air National Guard mission of defending the homeland and its allies,” said Murphy. “Through modernization, we are able to effectively and efficiently deliver multiple capabilities at the speed of relevance, allowing leadership at all levels to make better, well-informed decisions.”



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