167TH Airlift Wing, FEMA hold joint exercise
By SSgt Sherree Grebenstein, 167th Airlift Wing
/ Published May 25, 2010
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Members of the West Virginia Air National Guard's 167th Airlift Wing and Federal Emergency Management Agency held a joint inspection exercise at the air base here May 12 to ensure that if a disaster strikes anywhere in the world, equipment and supplies can be delivered expeditiously and safely.
With time of the essence when responding to a crisis, FEMA officials based in Frederick, Md., teamed with Airmen from the 167th Airlift Wing's Logistical Readiness Squadron's Small Air Terminal to inventory all items in the Prepositioned Equipment Program- to include hazardous materials - that would be shipped out aboard one of the Airlift Wing's 11 assigned C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft.
"The PEP program was established to provide immediate support for first responders in the event of an incident whether chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive. The PEP also provides support for overwhelming industrial incidents and natural disasters. It promptly brings equipment to the emergency responder and replenishes assets consumed in the response," according to FEMA officials.
There are 10 PEP sites located across the United States with the one in Frederick only 58 miles from the Martinsburg air base. Lawrence J. Kelly, who heads up the PEP Support Team-9 from Frederick, said having air support in such close proximity is critical if the team must deploy supplies overseas quickly.
Each PEP site is designed to cover 600 miles within 12 hours of notification, according to FEMA.
And although PST-9 has yet to respond to a disaster in the U.S. or abroad during its three years of operation, the joint exercise allowed the two entities the opportunity to work in tandem with one another so that there won't be any surprises when the call comes during an emergency to dispatch the equipment quickly.
Members of PST-9 hauled $2.5 million worth of equipment aboard two tractor trailers to be inspected during the exercise. A Suburban and two four-wheel drive all-terrain vehicles were among the deployable assets.
The overall goal of the joint inspection mission was to ensure "that items offered for transport by air meet proper specifications to maximize safety and security of the aircraft, aircrew, cargo and passengers."
"The more we know about FEMA the better off we are and everything gels together and we can get them out of Dodge quicker," said Chief Master Sgt. Daniel L. Schell, air transportation superintendent for the 167th Airlift Wing.
"We have to be able to fly the containers worldwide in the shortest amount of time," Kelly said.
Schell said the special handlers with the Wing's Small Air Terminal are tasked with ensuring that all hazardous materials have been identified and all items are properly documented.
"Documentation is the key thing," Kelly said. "Without that being right we could sit here for two days til we get it right, until it passes."
Adding: "Until we get the loadmaster's permission to put it on his aircraft we don't go anywhere."
Optimally, Schell said it would take about two to three hours to inspect and inventory all of the PEP in the 10 Isolated Storage Units hauled aboard the two tractor trailers and then get the ISUs loaded onto a C-5. The ISUs are made of heavy-duty aluminum which can be loaded onto the aircraft. The double-sided ISU contains everything from emergency medical supplies to decontamination equipment.
Kelly said when the PST deploys to an emergency situation it can be self-sufficient for 10 days and brings everything from tents to portable communications with it.
Without having every "I" dotted and "t" crossed when it comes to ensuring that the proper paperwork for the PEP has been done, the critical supplies and equipment won't be able to roll.
Kelly said that with "everyone on the same sheet of music" being able to deploy the PEP when necessary runs much smoother.
Schell said the main goal is to get PEP from "point A to point B" in the least amount of time safely."
In August, members of PST-9 will return to the air base in Martinsburg and will take the dress rehearsal a step further when the PEP is actually loaded onto a C-5.
Staff Sgt. Troy Lozinski, a special handler for equipment bound for the aircraft, said the exercise allows for everyone involved to be on the same page.
"Whatever they bring us we make sure it's ready to fly," Lozinski said.
Kelly said the bottom line is that if the 167th Airlift Wing "doesn't say it's okay, we sit."
"Without their blessing my trucks could sit here and rust," he added.