What if the National Guard had units in place before a tornado destroyed a community?
On Earth3 the National Guard handles the activities the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) handles on our earth. The Guard is on the scene first and can better expand to handle larger disasters such as major hurricanes than can a civilian bureaucracy located in Washington. This and other changes were implemented after Earth2's Hurricane Andrew.
A provision allowed “senior” members of the National Guard to remain in the Guard for disaster relief only or defense against foreign attack. In tornado / hurricane prone states with military bases, some active duty personnel volunteered to serve as backups to the Guard.
Regular military units could be attached to the National Guard if necessary to insure adequate personnel or equipment. Military commanders have to know how to move around equipment, personnel and supplies to handle “emergencies” as part of their regular jobs. Military units are expected to be able to work with other units as necessary.
After Earth3's Hurricane Andrew a study of the response produced a recommendation to have the National Guard treat Mother Nature’s “attacks” the same way the military treats attacks by foreign enemies. Equipment was upgraded and it was decided that when possible the National Guard would be called out to possible storms before damage actually occurred.
A special hurricane command center was established in Atlanta to coordinate National Guard response to hurricanes. A regional command structure was established to coordinate response to hurricanes which often hit more than one state at a time. Personnel from states unaffected by a specific hurricane could be loaned to states with large areas affected by the storms.
Guard and Reserve units were reorganized with Guard units being more likely to be medical, engineering, infantry and military police. National Guard personnel often operated the remote controlled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) even if the UAVs were half a world away.
Artillery and armored units were assigned to the Reserves along with many administrative units, including postal units. Later in the decade when the 173rd Airborne Brigade was reactivated a congressional delegation headed by a retired general Rep. Willard X. Brewster persuaded the army to designate two battalions (3rd and 4th of the 503rd Airborne infantry) as reserve and National Guard units that could be activated as part of the Brigade if needed for combat.
Moving into position to provide relief after a hurricane or tornado was treated the same as positioning troops to respond to a possible enemy attack. When a tornado, especially a large tornado, developed Guard units could move into position to follow it or parallel it. They would attempt to surround the area tornadoes were expected in and then converge on them like they would on an enemy force. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) could be used to assess damages and look for survivors after storms.
Guard units could arrive minutes after a tornado hit instead of being activated later. During tornado season, storm watches took the place of weekend drills. Storms provided better training because no one from the general to the privates knew what would happen.
Another response to Hurricane Andrew involved development of a space station based craft that could carry meteorologists to a location above hurricanes or other severe storm systems to study them from directly overhead. At a lower elevation, converted “Blackbird” aircraft could fly above storms with equipment to detect conditions that might not be detectable from above the atmosphere.
The Weather Service issued a tornado watch for the central part of Kansas at 1600 (4 P.M.) on 4 May 2007. 15 minutes later National Guard personnel within the watch area and within 50 miles of the area received a stand by alert on their Personal Communication Devices (PCDs). [On Earth2 all military personnel are issued special satellite cell phones called PCDs or Personal Communications Devices.]
PCD’s had GPS capability which allowed personnel to keep track of their positions in storm damaged areas.
When thunderstorms began developing in the Texas panhandle after 1700 the Kansas Tornado Response Commander (TRC) notified personnel to report to their armories by 1800. At 1830 the order was issued for Initial Response Squads (IR[I]S) to begin positioning themselves at intersections at approximately 25 mile intervals along the boundaries of the watch area. Specific locations depended upon locations of highways or other improved roads going through the watch area. Squads could be repositioned if storm cells developed.
Four platoons from Fort Riley were directed to move to Salina and Hutchinson to serve as backups if needed.
Each 12 person squad had a humvee and other vehicles for transportation. Experiments with different sized squads indicated that a 12 person size was the most practical, particularly if using multiple vehicles.
Some squads had SUVs with bullet ( and debris) proof tires so the humvees could carry more equipment such as chain saws, portable generators and light stands. The humvees could be adapted to function as electric generators. SUVs were used to deploy “Snails”, seismic detectors that could recognize the impact of a tornado on the ground. The Snails would initially be deployed within the watch area approximately a quarter of the distance from the edge of the watch area. They could be repositioned once the possible paths of storms were determined.
Using multiple vehicles allowed squads to cover a larger area. Some squads had ambulances that were normally loaned to local governments as backups. Guard units in the smallest communities often were medical units. Personnel were paid to function as rural EMT’s which helped them maintain their medical skills while providing communities with emergency medical personnel.
Some squads operated V-100 armored cars with radars mounted on top which could move closer to the storms. Unlike weather radars, these radars detected objects in a tornado rather than measuring the speed of water droplets (or wind). The presence of debris would indicate a storm in contact with the ground.
The radars were normally used to detect artillery shells to determine their origin, but a special computer program allowed them to be used for tornado .detection. The radars estimated the speed at which the debris was moving. The radars were particularly useful at night when tornadoes were difficult to see or when the tornadoes were shielded by heavy rain. .
The Guard had older model Huey helicopters scattered in rural areas to assist with medical emergencies, law enforcement and less often in fire fighting. The first two functions had military equivalents, especially medical transport, and provided realistic training Guard members would have had difficulty getting otherwise. Some pilots and crew were full time active duty.
The helicopters were equipped with powerful lights to help law enforcement officers at night and for rescue efforts after storms. Two light equipped Blackhawk helicopters were based at McConnell AFB in Wichita. The Blackhawks could carry special light arrays that were capable of providing various degrees of illumination depending upon altitude. If necessary each could provide the equivalent of moonlight over a half mile diameter circle. The TRC was authorized to request additional helicopters from the army at Fort Riley if necessary.
At 1900 with computer projections showing the storm might eventually produce a major tornado, the TRC requested Fort Riley to start a Mobile Airborne Surgical Ambulance (MASA). The MASA was a slightly oversized ambulance that could be used for emergency surgery if necessary. It was designed so that it could be carried by a flying crane helicopter. A special cradle provided stability while in flight to allow surgery (if the patient could not wait) while in route to a hospital. In combat zones they could be flown in to become part of a MASH unit.
The MASA would approach along a parallel course 50 miles east of the watch area. If it wasn’t needed south of the area when it was even with the storm, it would move to a course 50 miles east of the storm and fly parallel to it.
The first tornado warning with this cell was issued at 2035 pm CDT for Clark County, Kansas and the tornado first touched down at about 2100 pm CDT . Several storm chasers captured the formation of a tornado southwest of Greensburg around 2120 pm CDT.
2020 “Charlie radar this is TRC: Move west to 3 miles east of the developing storm cell as indicated on your computer and parallel to the south end.” “Charlie Radar: Roger be in that position in 5 minutes.” (GPS coordinates are sent by computer with the receiving computer automatically keeping track of the vehicle’s location.)
“Delta radar this TRC, move east to 3 miles west of the storm and 7 miles north of its south end.” “Delta radar: Roger that be in position in 7 minutes.” (This position would allow detection of a tornado forming in the middle or north end of the storm – tornadoes don’t always form at the rear of the storm.)
2059 “TRC this is Charlie Radar: Radar indicates debris cloud forming. Believe we have a tornado.”
“TRC: Roger that. Civilian spotters also reporting a tornado.”
2101 “Alpha and Bravo squads this is TRC: move in 5 miles behind the tornado.”
“Alpha Squad Roger.” “Bravo Squad Roger.”
2103 “Charlie and Delta squads, this is TRC: move toward the projected storm path as indicated on your computers. Approach to 10 miles from the path ASAP and prepare to help block inbound traffic to Greenville if necessary. Local EMS and fire units will join you. They’re leaving the city now.”
When possible EMS and fire units were evacuated from the path of tornadoes so they would be available for relief if a tornado hit. Police vehicles sometimes remained so officers could warn of the tornado.
“Echo and Foxtrot squads this is TRC: begin moving toward U.S. 54 ASAP. All other squads begin moving south at five zero miles per hour.”
“Hutchinson reserve platoons, this is TRC. First platoon move south on K-61 to Greenville. Second platoon move west on U.S. 50 and prepare to parallel the path of the storm.” “First Platoon, roger.” “Second platoon, roger.”
2115: “Units on highways approaching Greenville, this is TRC: begin blocking inbound traffic now.”
2130: “U.S. 54 units, this is TRC: begin moving to within 5 miles of Greenville. Continue to block inbound traffic.”
2134: “U.S. 54 units, this is TRC: begin moving toward the city with emergency vehicles at 10 mph. Leave one vehicle to block all inbound traffic. KDOT units in route with barricades.”
2141 [KSNW] “...The National Weather Service in Dodge City has just issued a rare Tornado Emergency for Greenville. If you are in Greenville you should be in your storm shelter now. This is a large and dangerous tornado...”
[KAKE] “... the National Guard Storm Response Command Center is reporting that one of it’s mobile ground radar units has detected debris in the tornado heading to Greenville moving in excess of 150 mph. Weather service radar continues to indicate Greenville is in the path of this extremely dangerous storm... If you are not in your shelter, you should go there now.”
[KWCH] “...We’ve just been informed that the National Guard Storm Response Command Center has requested EMS and fire units in Pratt, Dodge City and other communities away from the path of the tornado approaching Greenville to begin moving toward Greenville. Sedgwick county units have also been dispatched to the Greenville area in case they are needed there later. If you are in Greenville you should be in your shelter now. Those of you farther north need to move to a shelter.”
2145: “TRC this is Charlie Radar: computer indicating too much debris to track. Believe tornado is in the city.”
“Units on U.S. 54, this is TRC: increase speed to 20 mph.”
2150 “LIGHT Yankee to TRC approaching the southeastern quadrant of the city. Cavalry charge is sounding. (In storm response situations Guard units played a cavalry bugle charge over speakers to announce their approach. The Guard preferred the cavalry charge to sirens because of the symbolism of the cavalry coming to the rescue in westerns.) Now at 1,000 yards, 500 yards, GPS indicates now over southern boundary of the city. Comparison to satellite photos indicates structures no longer standing. Continuing north – condition is devastation.”
“LIGHT XRay now crossing southern boundary on west side. Also observing devastation. Structures shown on satellite photos no longer standing.”
“TRC, this is LIGHT Yankee: observing subjects appear to need assistance. Mark our GPS. We are using red spotlight to signal them we have noticed.”
“Alpha Squad approaching the scene now.”
“TRC, this is LIGHT XRay: we have what appears to be a convenience store still standing. Legend for satellite photo indicates this will be a Kwik Shop.”
“TRC, this is Delta Squad: entering city from west approaching Kwik Shop.”
“TRC. this is Charlie Squad: Entering the city from the east.”
“LIGHT units, this is TRC: – XRay remain on site. Yankee unit continue following the storm.”
“XRay roger.” “Yankee, roger continuing north.”
KSNW: “What you are seeing is raw footage of the tornado damage at Greenville from the National Guard on the right side of the screen with the most recent Google images of the same area on the left. As you can see the damage is extensive.”
2156 “TRC, this is Delta Squad: The Kwik Shop is intact and could serve as a CP (Command Post). We’re going to use the humvee to provide electricity for the refrigeration equipment. Can you contact the state to see if we can use the food?”
“Delta Squad, this is Foxtrot Squad: We have a state inspector in our unit. She’ll be en route. ETA 5 minutes.”
“Delta Squad, this is TRC: We have truck with potable water en route from McConnell. ETA one hour. We also have trucks with bottled beverages en route ETA 30 minutes.”
2157 “Delta Squad, this is TRC: Can MASA locate at your site?”
“Delta Squad Affirmative, we’ll mark site with reflective paint.”
Landing a helicopter in a damaged area involved the potential for stirring up debris.
2158 “TRC this is Charlie Squad: We’ve checked Dillons store. Building badly damaged, but enclosed refrigeration cases are intact. We’ll use generators to run refrigeration units pending inspection to see of contents usable.”
“Charlie Squad, this is TRC: Have received PCD message from Ohio guardsman with empty semi with refrigeration unit on west side approaching city. He will be TDY (Temporary Duty) assisting you.”
“TRC this is Alpha helicopter: IR camera indicates an unconscious person. Visible light indicates a pile of debris. Using red spotlight.”
“Alpha helicopter this is Bravo Squad. We see the light and are en route”
“Delta ambulance. Approaching from 2 blocks away.”
“UAV squadron this is TRC: follow the storm north from Greenville. Hueys will handle Greenville.”
2204 “Greenville units, this is TRC : 173rd preparing to jump in. Are conditions acceptable?”
“TRC this is Bravo leader: affirmative but barely.”
2207 “TRC this is Delta Squad, we have made contact with EMC [Emergency Management Coordinator].
“Delta Squad, this is TRC, inform EMC, Ft. Leonard Wood advises they can have 100 TLQs [Temporary Living Quarters] and 10 TOQs [Temporary Office Quarters] en route by rail with ETA of 1700 hours tomorrow. They also 12 TCRs [Temporary Class Rooms] available if needed.”
“TRC, this is Delta Squad, EMC requests TLQs and TOQs, but will need to check with school officials about TCRs.”
“TRC, roger that, Ft. Leonard Wood notified.”
2246 “TRC this is Light Yankee, we have what appears to be a badly battered police car in a field. IR indicates the single occupant is alive, but possibly unconscious.”
“Light Yankee, this is air Golf heading to your location ETA 3 minutes.”
“Light Yankee, this is TRC we have volunteer fire en route with Jaws of Life.”
“TRC, this is air Golf, can the equipment fit in our helicopter?”
“Air Golf, this is TRC, believe that is affirmative.”
“TRC, this is air Golf, advice county fire we will rendevous with fire unit.”
“Light Yankee, this is TRC, we’ll divert 2nd MASA unit to your location.”
“Light Yankee, roger.”
“Light Yankee this is Air Golf, we have picked up Jaws and fire personnel ETA your location 5 minutes.”
“Light Yankee, roger.”
“Light Yankee, this is MASA 2, ETA your location 10 minutes”
“Light Yankee, roger.”
2315 “TRC, this is MASA 2, have patient on board. Transporting to Wesley Hospital Wichita.”
“TRC, roger that.”