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NEWS | Dec. 20, 2012

Mobile operations unit enhances response capability of Ky. Air National Guard

By Airman Basic Joshua L. Horton 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

LOUISVILLE - Airmen at the Kentucky Air National Guard have enhanced their ability to work with civilian agencies following a catastrophe, thanks to a new Mobile Emergency Operations Center.

The state-of-the-art trailer, informally called an MEOC, arrived Nov. 27.

It provides an extremely capable command-and-control hub that can be towed to the scene of any domestic disaster, said Senior Master Sgt. Carol Davis, emergency manager for the 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron.

MEOC has the unique ability to tap into the civilian communications infrastructure, Davis said. Most military equipment is designed to access military computer and communications networks instead.

“The MEOC provides on-scene communications and response capability we did not have previously,” Davis said. “We refer to our MEOC as having ‘.com communications,’ meaning it’s all civilian-capable. Military responders could also use it, but it isn’t equipped with ‘.mil’ communication systems. The civilian emergency management officials could then work out of it side-by-side with our military responders.”

The MEOC is 36 feet long by 13 feet wide and is a self-contained system, featuring its own generator capable of supporting 24-hour operations for three to five days.

A satellite-based communications suite integrates multiple radio systems, three dedicated phone lines, national and local TV reception and a surveillance camera. The trailer includes such amenities as a toilet, meeting room, microwave and refrigerator.

The $750,000 MEOC will be based in Louisville, but Davis said it will be shared with other Air Guard units on an as-needed basis.

“It’s a regional asset that the National Guard Bureau has placed in the state of Kentucky. Ultimately, there will be 30 deployed to various wings throughout the United States.”

Kentucky was one of the first states to get an MEOC because of its proximity to surrounding Federal Emergency Management Agency regions, according to Senior Airman Eric Finley, an emergency management journeyman for the 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron.

“We can take it to any scene, whether it’s a haz-mat incident or a natural disaster,” he said.

The first planned use of the MEOC’s capabilities will occur in March during a scheduled Major Accident Response Exercise, Davis said.

“We plan to put the MEOC to the test during the upcoming MARE. Until then, we have some work to do in acquainting our emergency managers and Emergency Operations Center personnel with the MEOC’s capabilities.”