GULFPORT, Miss. -- According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the United States experienced a historic year in terms of natural disasters in 2017. A natural disaster can strike any time and in any area within the nation. To prepare for this reality, approximately 1,000 personnel from federal, state and local entities are coming together for a Domestic Operations (DOMOPS) training exercise sponsored by the National Guard Bureau (NGB) at the Combined Arms Combat Training Facility (CACTF) at Camp Shelby, Miss., with some operations taking place at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center (CRTC), Miss., from Feb. 12 -- 15, 2018.

The exercise, referred to as PATRIOT South 2018, will focus on increasing the ability of local, state and federal organizations to coordinate and work together in response to a natural or man-made emergency. PATRIOT South 2018 will test the combined entities' abilities to respond during natural disasters using simulated emergency scenarios.

"It's a critical integration of our civilian and military entities to help save lives on the home front in response to a domestic, natural disaster or a man-made disaster," said Lt. Col. Ashley Nickloes, Deputy Director for PATRIOT South 2018.

The exercise allows National Guard members who normally work on wartime tasks to receive critical training working on domestic operation tasks. Additionally, Guard members will gain experience working side-by-side with various civilian and state entities.

"We work with the civilians on a disaster response at all levels, so it's imperative we work together with them instead of trying to be two entities," said Nickloes. "Otherwise we won't become a synergistic force and really help people in the United States in an emergency response."

The simulated disaster for this year's exercise is an earthquake scenario since Mississippi is within close proximity to the New Madrid Seismic Zone.

"We've set up venues at Camp Shelby that will simulate collapsed structures and victims within those collapsed structures," said Lt. Col. Roger Brooks, Director for PATRIOT South 2018.

Representation for this year's PATRIOT South exercise comes from over a dozen states, which includes around 50 units from the Air and Army National Guard, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security and the South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (HART).

Senior Airman Angelica Midgley of the 154th Wing Security Forces Squadron from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, is a participant in the exercise.

"I think being in an environment outside Hawaii and on a different training ground will provide more of a realistic scenario because it's not an environment our NCOs or Airmen are used to," said Midgley. "In Mississippi, we are able to challenge ourselves in different conditions. I'm really excited for it.