Indiana Airmen weather disaster relief training at ‘Racer Winds’

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kevin Schulze
  • 181st Intelligence Wing
Screams filled the air. Broken down cars lay overturned in the road. Power lines fallen across the street. Injured victims remain trapped in the wreckage. To some, this would seem like a nightmare, but for the Indiana Air National Guard, it is all part of the job.

Approximately 150 Airmen with the 181st Intelligence Wing worked alongside civilian authorities during "Racer Winds," a three-day simulated domestic operation for disaster relief, June 14-17, 2015, at MUTC near Butlerville, Indiana.

With scenarios ranging from road clearance to civil disturbance, exercise participants trained and worked with other units to understand how they would work together in a disaster relief situation.

This opportunity allowed Airmen to see how their career field applied outside of the 181st IW.

"Back at Hulman Field, my job is kind of a solo thing," said a 181st IW Senior Airman assigned to the Logistics Readiness Squadron. "This taught me to adapt and work with others to get the job done."

Alongside Hulman Field Airmen, civilian units were able to experience the value of training with other individuals with similar missions as their own, and prepare for a real disaster.

"This was one of the most valuable trainings I think we have done because how do we know what tomorrow is going to bring," said Robin Stanifer, a dog handler with the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency. "How do we know that right in our very own community, or anywhere here in the state of Indiana that we aren't going to have some kind of event?"

For the Airmen of the 181st IW, Racer Winds provided them an opportunity to not only see their civilian counterparts in action, but also show what skills they offer to the mission.

"It was very neat for the civilians to see the capabilities that the Guard has to offer," said a 181st IW Security Forces superintendent. "And it was a good experience interacting with law enforcement, especially during the civil disturbance. After seeing us in action, they said they could use us in more situations than they thought."

This training also provided civilian units a chance to see how they fit into the mission and how the military units operate alongside them.

"You [181st IW] have all of your military expertise, you can clear the road, you can take care of the crowds," said Stanifer. "You can do anything within your realm and we're a flavor to add to that because on top of that, there are going to be missing people, there are going to be casualties, and that's where we can come in to assist."

Despite Racer Winds being a simulated disaster, the training received was substantially beneficial for all participants involved. It gave a true sense of what it would be like to respond to a natural disaster such as a hurricane.

An LRS Airman said that Racer Winds allowed mistakes to be made and fixed before a real life situation presented itself.

"What we are doing here is as realistic as you can make it," said J. D. Kesler, Deputy Director Administration with the Vigo County EMA. "When you get boots on the ground, that's when you fully understand the value of what you've done here."

Training operations like Racer Winds not only provide the necessary tactical training required for the job, but also gives a lasting bond with other units in the area. A connection that transcends the training environment and crosses into everyday life of the individuals involved.

"It's about the relationships you make," said Dorene Hojnicki, director of the Vigo County EMA. "You meet these people when exercising and when you step down you still have those connections. If something were to happen in your life, 'oh I know so-and-so from EMA, or the fire department, or wherever, who can help.'"

With relationships made and the training completed, 181st IW Airmen return to Hulman Field, Racer Ready and standing by to help the community.