JULY 20, 2015, VOLK FIELD, Wis. – The small town of New Richmond, Wisconsin, was devastated June 12, 1899.
A category F5 tornado ripped through the hamlet on the same day as the Gollmar Brothers Circus visited. The twister resulted in 117 deaths, 125 injuries, and over $300,000 in damage ($3,904,000 in today’s terms).
Natural disasters are nearly impossible to predict but they can strike anywhere, any time, without warning, but being prepared for these events is critical to ensure minimum loss of life and fatalities and the National Guard considers this preparation of utmost importance.
The PATRIOT 2015 exercise effectively illustrates the need to be prepared for such events.
“Just like professional sports teams who have spring training, we also need to practice,” said Lt. Col. David “D.J.” Spisso, director of PATRIOT 2015. “The first time you meet civilians in your community should not be when there’s an event. You should practice before the event so that you know how the response will work.”
Spisso, who is a C-130H2 pilot for the Georgia Air National Guard, added it is unique for National Guard members in that they are the Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen who are prepared to work alongside the community when the need arises.
PATRIOT is an annual Domestic Operations training exercise sponsored by the National Guard Bureau and accredited by the Joint National Capability Program. PATRIOT focuses on increasing the understanding of coordination with local, state and federal organizations. PATRIOT will have multiple interagency field training exercise events including: Mass casualty, aeromedical evacuation, collapsed structures, hospital evacuation, HAZMAT along with search and rescue.
This year’s exercise will also add new venues with new partners including the Juneau County Sheriff’s Department doing wellness checks and the Mile Bluff Hospital in Mauston working with military medical teams.
“This exercise allows military members to interact with civilians performing defense support for civilian authorities,” said Maj. Roger M. Brooks, chief of staff for PATRIOT 2015.
About 1,500 National Guard members from 33 states are participating in this year’s exercise. Additionally, numerous state and local public safety agencies are supporting PATRIOT including Pewaukee Fire Department, Wisconsin Emergency Management, Civil Air Patrol, Juneau County Sheriff, The Salvation Army and the American Red Cross.
“The biggest benefit of the exercise is it allows our military members to exercise mentally how to work with, speak to, and react with civilians,” Brooks said. “They get to take their wartime function and translate it to a civilian task.”
It is important to note that the exercise is not just critical to be able to just respond to a natural disaster but rather to be able to work effectively with the civilian counterparts so that the entire group may become a cohesive unit. The relationship between the military and the civilian sector is critical for the success of a domestic operations mission.
Disasters such as tornadoes, winter weather, hurricanes and flooding can strike at any time and, through the PATRIOT exercise, the members of the National Guard can be prepared to answer the call in their states when called upon to respond.