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NEWS | April 18, 2024

Army Guard Elevates Disaster Response with UAS Training

By National Guard Bureau Office of Public Affairs

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – In preparation for the direst of days on the homeland front, a dozen Citizen-Soldiers recently enhanced their technical acumen on unmanned aviation systems after completing a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers qualification course.

The training helps ensure the Army National Guard members from Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive response teams can safely and effectively operate UAS in the National Airspace System.  

While Soldiers are familiar with deploying the platforms after hurricanes and wildfires, the training represents a new Army Guard aviation paradigm: unmanned aircraft as an enabler of CBRNE incident response efforts.

“It will provide real-time, livestreaming digital video and employ onboard sensors to relay its surrounding environmental conditions over a dedicated network,” said Army Maj. Kyle McGaha, a CBRNE operations lead with the National Guard Bureau who attended the training.

He said UAS are crucial to expedite “the planning to conduct primary and secondary searches for ambulatory and non-ambulatory victims” while helping to ensure Guard members can safely perform tasks in contaminated environments. 

“These platforms mitigate the need to put our Soldiers in harm’s way, like radiological exposure, for example, while conducting site assessments,” McGaha said. “Larger aircraft can be used for missions such as personnel evacuation.”

The Army Guard members trained on quadcopters, a prelude to using R80D SkyRaider aerial systems in real situations. The training covered regulations and coordination with local authorities for airspace approval.

“Our training method is derived from Army aviation and Federal Aviation Administration handbooks and [emphasizes] hands-on tasks to produce mission-ready crew members ’out of the gate,’” said Chris Kernan, an aviation program manager with the Army engineers. 

National Guard officials said CBRNE teams, as part of a larger homeland response force, respond to incidents within six hours, conducting “command and control, search and extraction, mass casualty decontamination, and medical stabilization to save lives and mitigate human suffering.”

For Sgt. 1st Class Horacio Morfin, a planning noncommissioned officer with the California Army National Guard’s 185th Military Police Battalion, 49th Military Police Brigade, the training served as an indoctrination into the increasingly important world of unmanned aircraft.

“The main takeaway from this course is that this is just the beginning of our training,” Morfin said. “To master piloting these UAS, we have to stay current on flight hours and [operational] planning while learning about payloads and software required for these systems.”

Ryan Strange, a course instructor, said collaborating and ultimately integrating with the Army Guard is sure to pay off dividends when the time comes. 

“Providing this course to our National Guard Soldiers is a testament to our commitment to excellence, unity and shared responsibility for the protection of this nation,” Strange said.

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William Farrow, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, contributed to this report.

 

 

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