The Arkansas Air National Guard 188th Wing based in Fort Smith has been activated starting Thursday (Sept. 13) along with other remote support units nationwide to provide support for federal, local, and state authorities dealing with the landfall and aftermath of Hurricane Florence.
The full mission will be conducted at Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith.
Maj. William Phillips told Talk Business & Politics the 188th has been authorized for “up to 15 personnel” at its Unclassified Processing, Analysis and Dissemination (UPAD) station, adding the job of Airmen “will be analyzing data, photos, and imagery” as well as geospatial products, which cover “a wide range of information that can easily (be) accessed from multiple databases that are input from various resources around the nation/globe.”
For example, “if we wanted to know where all the hospitals in Arkansas are located, we can do so through a geospatial search.” Phillips said Airmen “will be able to let the local authorities know how far the flood waters have made it inland, what bridges may be damaged,” and so on.
The unit will not be required to have a physical presence in North Carolina, where Florence is expected to hit. Rather, Airmen will use UPAD equipment, commercially available software, and non-secure networks to process and analyze the information. Info will come from multiple sources, including commercial satellites as well as manned and unmanned aircraft.
According to a report by Tech. Sgt. John Hillier, with the188th, the UPAD was previously activated in response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria in September 2017. 188th Airmen supplied more than 2,000 information products during those events, including damage and debris assessments, evacuation route assessments, lines of communication assessments, vantage point assessments for air traffic control teams, and flood potential assessments.
“Those responses were in addition to the mission performed here every day accomplishing national military objectives around the globe,” Hillier noted.
The Florence mission is funded through Oct. 3 but could continue past that date as needed. The 188th Wing’s UPAD is one of 12 such sites across Air National Guard intelligence units. It was the first to volunteer in response to the storm.