NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Several members of the 118th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group based at Joint Base Berry Field in Nashville, Tennessee, are providing support for relief efforts in response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
The 118th ISRG is working with other units across the country to process, analyze and disseminate images and video of hurricane-damaged areas to aid in recovery efforts.
"We are providing damage assessment to FEMA for areas in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico," said Capt. Charles, a 118th ISRG intelligence officer. "The images are used to identify and prioritize critical need areas."
Most of the images are gathered from open source information, such as Civil Air Patrol, as well as military and civilian aircraft flying over different areas and relaying pictures back. The 118th is responsible for assisting with image and video compilation and identifying heavily damaged areas, and where people may be stranded and in need of rescue.
"After aircraft have flown over and documented the damage, that information comes to us. We are sort of the nexus for information to get the bigger picture to those on the ground who are providing rescue and recovery operations," said Senior Airman Matt, a geospatial analyst with the 118th ISRG.
"We put together before and after images to aid in determining the level of damage," said Charles. "First responders on the ground want to know the significance of what we are providing to them."
Each unit is assigned different areas to assess, and then they can help create a damage scale. This all adds to the big picture of total damage and identifies critical areas.
The Nashville unit was tasked with a few different oil refineries during Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. After Hurricane Irma, the unit was tasked with Puerto Rico, which fortunately didn’t receive the level of damage that was expected.
"We developed a power outage map with the assistance of images from NASA and facilitated this to the Puerto Rico National Guard for recovery efforts," said Charles.
One of Matt’s tasks was to check the conditions of airfields in Puerto Rico and determine if aircraft could land there for other recovery operations.
"There were no issues, so if they need to land there, it is safe," said Matt, who serves as a police officer when not on duty with the National Guard.
The ISRG is normally assigned missions from the active duty Air Force. Something that sets the National Guard apart from its active duty counterparts is its ability to provide support at a state level during times of natural disasters.
"It is nice to support a state mission," said Matt. "I enjoy serving my country both as a police officer and as a member of the Air National Guard. I love helping people."
"Helping out our own people who are suffering and need assistance is more personal," said Charles, who works full-time with the National Guard. "It is very fulfilling to use our skill set during a natural disaster."