Mother Nature Could Put Counterdrug Mission on Hold
By Tech. Sgt. Michelle L. Thomas, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Sep. 14, 2004 If Hurricane Ivan strikes Florida this week, members of the Florida National Guard Counterdrug Reconnaissance and Aerial Interdiction Detachment team will put aside their counterdrug duties, briefly, to capture images of a different sort; images of destruction caused by Mother Nature.
According to Florida National Guard RAID commander Capt. Brett Rhodenizer, OH-58 RAID helicopters will fly over the heavily damaged areas using Forward Looking Infrared, T.V., and low-light cameras immediately after the storm passes.
Once the images are uploaded by the crew, the video can be directly fed to the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee, allowing the appropriate emergency agencies to prioritize and allocate resources as necessary based on the observations, said Rhodenizer.
Currently, various agencies such as Federal Emergency Management Agency, State Emergency Response Team and numerous military support organizations are manning the State EOC in the wake of both Hurricanes Charley and Frances.
Now faced with a third hurricane and the ensuing aftermath, the surveillance footage could prove highly beneficial to the emergency response agencies given the double blows Florida has received during the past month.
According to emergency response officials, if the RAID teams are used for the damage surveillance, it will mark the first time live footage has been used by the State EOC. During normal operations, the RAID teams work in direct support of law enforcement agencies, using the various imaging technology to record drug activities throughout the state. If the RAID teams are tasked for the hurricane, Rhodenizer stated that if called upon, the Hurricane Ivan reconnaissance mission will not impact the counterdrug mission.
"Even dopers won't go out in a hurricane," he said. The Guard's counterdrug operation in Florida has four OH-58s, ensuring there will still be enough manning to thwart drug or terrorist activities. The counterdrug mission will still thrive, even if parts of Florida are blasted by the wrath of Ivan.
(Air Guard Tech. Sgt. Michelle L. Thomas is on active duty with to the 125th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office.)