With hurricane season quickly approaching, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s current operations emergency manager, Jerome Wise visited the home of Army aviation to gather information and better understand how the installation conducts emergency management locally March 29-30, 2022.
The 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1 through November 30, and with the Fort Rucker team already focusing on preparedness, Wise felt the timing was ideal for a visit.
Wise said he spent more than a decade in New Orleans and understands the devastation hurricanes like Katrina can cause.
“The last two hurricane seasons were pretty active within the Gulf Coast area,” he said.
His goal was to see how Fort Rucker manages and oversees their plan to protect its people and the critical aviation assets.
“It’s important for me to understand the centers of excellence and how they do their protection requirements and emergency management requirements,” Wise said. “Based on that I’ll be able to bring back a good report for our senior leadership at TRADOC.”
Wise said part of his job at TRADOC headquarters is tracking any incidents (which he referred to as hazards), and providing information to senior leaders in a timely manner.
“They’ve got to make the decision but I’ve got to provide the best information to them so they can make that right decision,” he said.
Wise emphasized the importance of protecting the mission, as emergency managers, so the units can focus on their task at hand of training aviation professionals, with minimal impacts.
“If at any time that mission is disrupted, meaning dealing with hurricanes or any type of events that might hinder operations, that’s going to slow the training of those personnel and slows down the mission, and obviously it impacts the Army mission as well,” he said.
“Having those emergency preparedness plans in place to protect that is key to the strategic value and mission of the United States Army,” he said.
The visit included an orientation flight in a Black Hawk helicopter to see the scope and scale of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence mission, a hurricane condition briefing, and discussions with key USAACE and Fort Rucker personnel.
The enormity of the unique Aviation Center training mission needs to been seen firsthand to be understood: it reaches out beyond the five base fields, 15 stage fields, tactical training sites, and test site in the Wiregrass, according to Cory Greenawalt, USAACE’s force protection officer and emergency management coordinator.
“We fly as far as Tennessee, as far south as Florida, we go to Louisiana sometimes, out to Georgia to the coast. We cover a large area,” Greenawalt said.
“Our five base fields here at Fort Rucker are classrooms. They’re not like any other classroom in the (other) centers of excellence. I’ve got a seven mile perimeter around Cairns airfield, and Cairns airfield itself is a classroom…. It’s a very unique situation here at Rucker. The more TRADOC understands about our situation, the better they can help us with those resources,” Greenawalt said.
Johnny Rosado, Fort Rucker installation emergency manager, said communication is key to preparing for potential hazards, whether it is by phone, the internet, or using video conferencing platforms.
He constantly works with tenant units, state and local emergency responders and emergency managers, to provide a common operating picture.
“My job is to constantly talk to them, gather information, make sure that we’re getting the latest and greatest information to the general so he can make decisions in a timely manner, and constantly doing that throughout the entire process until an ‘all clear’ or until the crisis or training event is completed,” Rosado said.
The team also keeps Installation Management Command and Training and Doctrine Command informed.
Rosado said the installation normally begins its readiness check a few months in advance of hurricane season. With multiple threats of severe weather in the area in recent weeks, they have been frequently on alert, gathering and providing information to senior leaders to make decisions about the workforce, the training and the aircraft.
During Wise’s visit, the Fort Rucker team was actively monitoring an approaching storm that brought high wind gusts and resulted in downed trees in the area.
The team typically starts monitoring the weather 120 hours out, and at 96 hours out they start talking with the senior leader, Rosado said.
Rosado said visits from higher headquarters can help close communication gaps.
“It really puts it in perspective, not just with the aircraft that we have … and how they’re used, but also infrastructure and the personnel that are working there. As we go into hurricane season, It allows him to get a perspective on how we are constantly monitoring the weather and getting that information to the leadership, especially the tenant units on what they need to do to safeguard those folks and the aircraft,” Rosado said.
Wise lauded the Fort Rucker team for their level of preparedness, and he said the time to know how the installation reacts in an emergency is before an incident occurs.
“You can’t prepare for an incident when it’s happening. You have to prepare prior to. And that’s why it’s always good to have exercises, and it’s good for me to come up here prior to hurricane season, because we’re going to be pretty busy,” Wise said. “It’s good that Mr. Rosado and his team are able to provide a good overview for Maj. Gen. Francis and the team.”