Rapid Augmentation Team conducts training

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jessica Condit
  • 189th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

          The 189th Airlift Wing’s Rapid Augmentation Team practiced emergency response techniques during annual emergency responder training Dec. 7, 2017, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The team practiced techniques such as the proper use of a chainsaw, Humvee convoy maneuvers, and proper radio communications etiquette to ensure all volunteers are prepared when they are called to state activation.

     The team, which consists of more than 100 volunteer Airmen, work round the clock when called to state active duty by the governor of Arkansas. They spend hours of volunteer time clearing roads, removing debris, assisting the Arkansas State Police, providing command and control support and performing health and wellness checks to name only a few objectives. The R.A.T. responded to the flooding in Northeast Arkansas earlier this year, providing assistance to residents affected by the heavy rainfall.


     “We hear over and over again, ‘this is why I joined the Air National Guard’, to help those in our local communities,” said Master Sgt. Bill Catton, the 189th Airlift Wing Emergency Manager. “There is no better feeling than being able to help your neighbors, friends, and family in a time of disaster. Time after time, during and after a disaster, community members and leaders tell us how grateful they are and how our support helped them get on the path back to a normal life.”


     The R.A.T. has several elements that make it the driving force we know it as today. The Mobile Emergency Operations Center provides a central location for emergency responders to operate, making it a key element to the command and control in a disaster situation. The 189th AW was the first wing in the Air National Guard to receive a MEOC and has put it to many uses since its arrival, proving its value as an asset to the community and the Arkansas National Guard. The deployable operations center gives the added value of immediate communication in an environment where there may not be any and reaches people who require help.


     “The MEOC is a great asset for the R.A.T.,” said Airman 1st Class Matthew Head, a 189th Civil Engineer Squadron Emergency Management Specialist. “Having the mobility of the MEOC gives us the opportunity to go anywhere. A disaster’s location is not always predictable, so having this capability is one more reason the R.A.T. is well prepared to help the state of Arkansas.”


     During times of crisis, the R.A.T. and the MEOC work hand-in- hand with state and local responders. The team supports and assists the Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, local emergency management coordinators, county sheriffs and local law enforcement, to name only a few. When support is requested, the 189th AW emergency coordinators meet with community leaders who are requesting the support and develop a plan to best suit the needs of the local community.


     “We are always in constant contact with those leaders,” Catton said. “As the mission changes we can adapt and keep supporting. Communication is the key to a successful response.”


     While it is easy for the R.A.T. to support the community and provide emergency assistance, emotions can take a front seat in situations close to home. The tornado which struck Vilonia in 2011 was a reminder that the Arkansas Air National Guard has deep roots within its community and the R.A.T. was challenged with obstacles that affected their own way of life.


     “One mission we found difficult to carry out is the tornado that struck Vilonia,” Catton said. “Some of our team members are from the community and were either affected themselves or had family and friends that were. Their Service Before Self core value came through during that event and they were right beside all the other 189th AW members helping that community recover from that event.”


Catton states that being prepared for emergency weather conditions is the key to staying one step ahead of the weather.


     “Don’t wait, prepare now,” he said. “Mother Nature is very unpredictable and if you wait, it could be too late.”


     For more information on becoming a member of the Rapid Augmentation Team, contact Master Sgt. Bill Catton at (501) 987-2169. Information on emergency preparedness can be found at www.beready.af.mil.