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Wing exercises Initial Response Hub

A loadmaster from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing directs an all-terrain vehicle May 14, 2012, as its driver exits the cargo bay of a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 onto the flight line at Fort Campbell, Ky. The 123rd was participating in an exercise to test its response to a simulated earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, a fault line that originates near New Madrid, Mo., and stretches southwest across four states.  About 20 Kentucky Airmen, all assigned to the 123rd's Initial Response Hub package, assessed Campbell Army Airfield for earthquake damage, determined the kinds of airlift operations the facility could support and opened the ramp for incoming relief and aeromedical evacuation flights within five hours of being called to duty. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

A loadmaster from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing directs an all-terrain vehicle May 14, 2012, as its driver exits the cargo bay of a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 onto the flight line at Fort Campbell, Ky. The 123rd was participating in an exercise to test its response to a simulated earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, a fault line that originates near New Madrid, Mo., and stretches southwest across four states. About 20 Kentucky Airmen, all assigned to the 123rd???s Initial Response Hub package, assessed Campbell Army Airfield for earthquake damage, determined the kinds of airlift operations the facility could support and opened the ramp for incoming relief and aeromedical evacuation flights within five hours of being called to duty. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer

Maj. Greg Schanding, civil engineering officer for the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group, prepares a map of functional facilities near the flight line at Fort Campbell, Ky., during an earthquake-response exercise May 14, 2012. Schanding and about 20 other Kentucky Air Guardsmen assessed Campbell Army Airfield for simulated earthquake damage, determined the kinds of airlift operations the facility could support and opened the ramp for incoming relief and aeromedical evacuation flights within five hours of being called to duty. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Maj. Greg Schanding, civil engineering officer for the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group, prepares a map of functional facilities near the flight line at Fort Campbell, Ky., during an earthquake-response exercise May 14, 2012. Schanding and about 20 other Kentucky Air Guardsmen assessed Campbell Army Airfield for simulated earthquake damage, determined the kinds of airlift operations the facility could support and opened the ramp for incoming relief and aeromedical evacuation flights within five hours of being called to duty. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer

Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard use all-terrain vehicles to conduct an airfield assessment at Fort Campbell, Ky., during an earthquake-response exercise May 14, 2012. About 20 Airmen examined all aspects of Campbell Army Airfield for simulated earthquake damage, determined the kinds of airlift operations the facility could support and opened the ramp for incoming relief and aeromedical evacuation flights within five hours of being called to duty.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard use all-terrain vehicles to conduct an airfield assessment at Fort Campbell, Ky., during an earthquake-response exercise May 14, 2012. About 20 Airmen examined all aspects of Campbell Army Airfield for simulated earthquake damage, determined the kinds of airlift operations the facility could support and opened the ramp for incoming relief and aeromedical evacuation flights within five hours of being called to duty. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard unload a forklift from a C-130 aircraft during an earthquake-response exercise May 14, 2012, at Fort Campbell, Ky. About 20 Airmen from the 123rd Contingency Response Group and 123rd Special Tactics Squadron deployed to demonstrate their preparedness for an initial response after a natural disaster. The Kentucky Air Guard's Initial Response Hub team is the first of its kind in the nation. No other unit in the U.S. military has the same breadth of capabilities housed in one unit, with the C-130 aircraft to permit immediate response. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard unload a forklift from a C-130 aircraft during an earthquake-response exercise May 14, 2012, at Fort Campbell, Ky. About 20 Airmen from the 123rd Contingency Response Group and 123rd Special Tactics Squadron deployed to demonstrate their preparedness for an initial response after a natural disaster. The Kentucky Air Guard's Initial Response Hub team is the first of its kind in the nation. No other unit in the U.S. military has the same breadth of capabilities housed in one unit, with the C-130 aircraft to permit immediate response. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Special Tactics Squadron brief Col. Warren Hurst about operational capabilities at Campbell Army Airfield during an earthquake-response exercise May 14, 2012, at Fort Campbell, Ky. About 20 Kentucky Airmen, all assigned to Kentucky's Initial Response Hub package, determined the kinds of airlift operations the facility could support and opened the ramp for incoming relief and aeromedical evacuation flights within five hours of being called to duty. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Special Tactics Squadron brief Col. Warren Hurst about operational capabilities at Campbell Army Airfield during an earthquake-response exercise May 14, 2012, at Fort Campbell, Ky. About 20 Kentucky Airmen, all assigned to Kentucky's Initial Response Hub package, determined the kinds of airlift operations the facility could support and opened the ramp for incoming relief and aeromedical evacuation flights within five hours of being called to duty. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

Col. Greg Nelson (second from left), commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, consults with members of the unit's Initial Response Hub team at Fort Campbell, Ky., during an earthquake-response exercise May 14, 2012. About 20 Airmen from the 123rd Contingency Response Group and 123rd Special Tactics Squadron deployed to Fort Campbell to demonstrate their preparedness for an initial response after a natural disaster. The Kentucky Air Guard's Initial Response Hub team is the first of its kind in the nation. No other unit in the U.S. military has the same breadth of capabilities housed in one unit, with the C-130 aircraft to permit immediate response. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

l. Greg Nelson (second from left), commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, consults with members of the unit's Initial Response Hub team at Fort Campbell, Ky., during an earthquake-response exercise May 14, 2012. About 20 Airmen from the 123rd Contingency Response Group and 123rd Special Tactics Squadron deployed to Fort Campbell to demonstrate their preparedness for an initial response after a natural disaster. The Kentucky Air Guard's Initial Response Hub team is the first of its kind in the nation. No other unit in the U.S. military has the same breadth of capabilities housed in one unit, with the C-130 aircraft to permit immediate response. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

Col. Warren Hurst, commander of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group, provides simulated civilian and military leadership with a live video feed of ground conditions at Campbell Army Airfield during an earthquake-response exercise May 14, 2012, at Fort Campbell, Ky. The event marked the first time that disaster-response forces have provided live video to national leaders within hours of a catastrophic event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

Col. Warren Hurst, commander of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group, provides simulated civilian and military leadership with a live video feed of ground conditions at Campbell Army Airfield during an earthquake-response exercise May 14, 2012, at Fort Campbell, Ky. The event marked the first time that disaster-response forces have provided live video to national leaders within hours of a catastrophic event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

Maj. Bruce Bancroft, operations officer for the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group, relays ground conditions back to higher headquarters during an earthquake-response exercise May 14, 2012, at Fort Campbell, Ky. Bancroft was one of about 20 Kentucky Airmen examined all aspects of Campbell Army Airfield for simulated earthquake damage, determined the kinds of airlift operations the facility could support and opened the ramp for incoming relief and aeromedical evacuation flights within five hours of being called to duty. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

Maj. Bruce Bancroft, operations officer for the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group, relays ground conditions back to higher headquarters during an earthquake-response exercise May 14, 2012, at Fort Campbell, Ky. Bancroft was one of about 20 Kentucky Airmen examined all aspects of Campbell Army Airfield for simulated earthquake damage, determined the kinds of airlift operations the facility could support and opened the ramp for incoming relief and aeromedical evacuation flights within five hours of being called to duty. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- More than 30 Kentucky Air Guardsmen and two C-130 aircraft from the 123rd Airlift Wing deployed May 14 to Fort Campbell, Ky, during a no-notice response to a notional 7.6-magnitude earthquake outside St. Louis.

Within three hours of a telephone recall initiated by Col. Warren Hurst, commander of the wing's Initial Response Hub, disaster-response personnel from the special tactics squadron, contingency response group, medical group, security forces, maintenance and public affairs were airborne to Western Kentucky.

Their purpose was to determine if Fort Campbell's airfield could support large-scale relief operations despite earthquake damage, report the findings to a broad range of federal agencies, and open the airfield for operations so supplies could be flown in and the wounded could be flown out.

The destination and mission both came as a surprise to the Kentucky Air Guardsmen, who had been expecting to deploy to Texas in response to a simulated hurricane, according to Col. Greg Nelson, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing.

"We threw the team a curve ball," he said. "Initially our Airmen were planning and preparing for a notional hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, as hurricane season is coming.

"At the last minute, we changed the entire mission and injected a New Madrid earthquake-response exercise, requiring the crews to create new flight plans and prepare for a completely different scenario. This is how real life and real disasters work."

Once at Fort Campbell, the Airmen assessed runways for earthquake damage, evaluated air traffic routes, prepared for emergency evacuations, and established voice, data and video communications with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Transportation Command, the National Guard Bureau and other government agencies, Hurst said.

Accompanying the Kentucky Air Guard were eight members of the civilian media, including Sean Moody from WKYT-TV in Lexington.

"It was an eye-opening experience," Moody said. "I was amazed at how fast the 123rd packed up and flew out of Louisville, landed in Campbell and so quickly went to work on the airfield."

The 123rd Airlift Wing Initial Response Hub is a unique air asset that draws on lessons learned during real-world relief missions in Haiti, Japan and Pakistan, and in the United States following Hurricane Katrina, Nelson said.

For example, it is the only team in the country in which all the assets needed to open an airfield are housed in one location with the aircraft required to deploy them. Such a centralized approach minimizes response time and maximizes operational capability.

"Only in Louisville have we put these capabilities together along with the C-130s to provide a rapid response to a disaster in our country," Nelson said.

"We stand ready to do this mission when our nation needs us. We have proven we can do this mission."