Senior Airman Dakota Brattain helps people talk to each other. Brattain is part of a specialized communications unit in the Indiana National Guard that provides emergency communications between a variety of military, federal and local agencies, helping those in many different types of uniforms respond to any type of major crisis. “In an emergency, we help all the players be able to communicate quickly and seamlessly,” said Brattain.
The Indiana National Guard Airman is spending about a week in northern Michigan, honing his skills as a wireless communications transmission specialist during Arctic Eagle 2016, a multi-state, international exercise centered at Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center.
During the exercise, military units from five states – as well as a contingent of Soldiers from Denmark’s Home Guard, an organization similar to the U.S. National Guard, are responding to a series of incidents, primarily a simulated nuclear “dirty bomb” attack on a community. The various military units are working with the local hospital in Grayling, the local sheriff’s department, a marina in Cheboygan and other agencies to respond to the “crisis.” With all those units working in the same region, it is critical that they be able to communicate quickly with each other, military leaders said.
“We come in and hand the commander a phone. On the other end, information is coming in and then that commander is able to give orders, based on the good flow of information,” said Major John Petrowski, commander of the communications flight attached to the 181st Intelligence Wing, an Air National Guard unit based in Terra Haute, Ind.
Senior Airman Dakota Brattain from the 181st Intelligence Wing of the Indiana Air National Guard conducts communications operations while supporting Exercise Arctic Eagle 16 on Camp Grayling April 5, 2016. (Photo by Master Sgt. David Kujawa, Michigan Air National Guard / Released).
The Indiana unit is tasked with providing a mobile emergency communications hub capability for several Midwestern states that make up Region V of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response area.
“We stood up this capability about two years ago,” Petrowski said. “Arctic Eagle is the first time we have exercised it in winter conditions. And this year, Arctic Eagle has really lived up to its name.”
Several inches of snow fell during the exercise and the overnight low during one night of the exercise was eight degrees below zero.
“The biggest challenge is climate control for the equipment,” Brattain said. “The computers and servers we use need to be kept in a certain temperature range, and kept dry. Last summer, we exercised in 90-degree-plus heat. Now we are working in the winter, so it is a new set of challenges.”
Brattain said it is those types of challenges that keeps him eager to serve in the Indiana Air National Guard.
“We go different places, see different things, meet different people. I really like what I do,” Brattain said.
Arctic Eagle 16 is a National Guard led, joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational exercise based on the President of the United States, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, state of Alaska and international partners’ Arctic strategies. It is conducted in live and constructive environments, focused on humanitarian assistance, consequence management and infrastructure protection.