103rd CES and Team Rubicon join forces during PATRIOT North 18

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Tamara R. Dabney
  • 103rd Airlift Wing
The chaos of a natural disaster does not end immediately after a storm passes or the earth stops quaking; the discord continues into the relief phase as government and non-government organizations work together to rescue survivors and rebuild what has been destroyed.

As the frequency and magnitude of natural disasters has increased in recent years, members of the 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron (CES), have become adept to providing rapid relief. The 103rd CES, stationed at Bradley Air National Guard Base, Conn., has mobilized in response to several natural disasters in the last 20 years, including the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010. Most recently, members of the unit cleared hundreds of pounds of debris from roadways in southeast Connecticut after a string of tornados swept through the state in May.

If and when a natural disaster hits, the 103rd CES is prepared to respond. The same can be said about Team Rubicon, an international non-government organization that specializes in rapid emergency response. To date, 1,683 members of Team Rubicon have deployed in response to Hurricane Harvey, which hit the Texas Gulf Coast in 2017. The organization has committed to rebuilding 100 homes that were destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.

“It goes back to the old motto, Always Ready, Always There,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Reilly, 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron Superintendent. “In any time of need or natural disaster we can get there.”

The response capabilities of both the 103rd CES and Team Rubicon have been tested and proven on multiple occasions; the challenge of disaster relief is not born out of first responder’s ability to respond. Rather, according to Reilly, the challenge lies in the difficult task of getting government and non-government organizations to communicate effectively and efficiently while on disaster relief missions.

“The important lesson from all of the operations I’ve been on, whether it’s state activation for floods or tornados or deployments, is we never worry about getting the job done,” said Reilly. “The key factor is that Command and Control, how that communication goes up and down the chain.”

A typical response to a natural disaster involves dozens of agencies being mobilized to affected areas to provide relief. Each organization has its own leaders, rules, and unique processes, and yet, each organization must work cohesively to accomplish a disaster relief mission. It is for this reason that the 103rd CES and Team Rubicon took the rare opportunity to join forces during the PATRIOT North 18 disaster relief training exercise.

“Practicing, working with non-government organizations with the military, isn’t a thing that we get to exercise very often, but by doing that, it will allows us to see what we can actually do together,” said Mike Watkins, Team Rubicon Deputy Director, Regional Operations-Midwest Territory.

During the exercise, the 103rd CES and Team Rubicon were faced with a series of disaster relief scenarios. Scenarios ranged from route clearing to roof repair to rescuing injured mannequins from collapsed buildings. Other agencies that participated in the exercise included The Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department and the Salvation Army. Through practice, each organization was able to test the limits of their capabilities while developing ways to work together more efficiently.

“I think there is a myriad of benefits, but more important is the best practices and the collaboration,” said Reilly. “What it does is it makes our response times a lot more efficient and effective.”

When 103rd CES and Team Rubicon are called upon for a real-world disaster, they’ll be ready to ease the chaos together.

“When you hit a large scale disaster, we’re going to be in the same workspace,” said Watkins. So, if we build those blue-sky relationships when there aren’t any storms going on, it allows us to really get used to working with each other, so there’s trust and confidence when a storm actually hits.”