TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
As Hurricane Harvey slammed into coastal
Texas the last week of August, Houston and the surrounding area were pounded
with unprecedented amounts of rain – experiencing 50 inches of rain in a matter
of days. That is more than the annual average for the region.
Flash flooding decimated the region,
putting extreme stress on local and state resources available to provide relief
and rescue efforts to the Texans who needed it.
Within days, the state government requested
the aid of DoD resources through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In response, Air Forces Northern stood up a crisis
action team to direct aerial operations of federal military assets supporting
the relief effort for the tens of thousands of people displaced from their
“I am proud of this outstanding team of
professionals who carried out a critical mission, especially our search and
rescue effort, in the wake of this catastrophic storm,” said Lt. Gen. R. Scott
Williams, Air Forces Northern commander. “This was a total force effort to support
our federal, state and interagency partners as we collectively responded to
those in need. Our ability to work hand in hand with active, guard and reserve
military forces, as well as U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection
assets, was a complete success.”
Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine units
from across the continental U.S., along with the Coast Guard and Air Force
Auxiliary Force (Civil Air Patrol), joined forces with state and local agencies
to provide enhanced search and rescue, communications and aerial imagery
collection during recovery efforts.
Of the more than 16,800 individuals
rescued by the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Coast Guard, Customs and
Border Protection, FEMA and DoD, 2,078 search and rescue operations were coordinated
through Tyndall’s Air Operations Center.
The Search and Rescue Operations
Coordination Element provided centralized control and prioritization of federal
military SAR forces to ensure the greatest unity of effort to save lives,
prevent human suffering and mitigate great loss of property.
In addition to the search and rescue
efforts, the Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations Center
requested AFNORTH assistance for airborne command and control over devastated
areas of Texas.
The 601st Air Operations Center, which
is the operational arm for AFNORTH, employed a U.S. Air Force E-3 Sentry and
E-8 Joint Stars and a U.S. Navy E-2 Hawkeye to fill the role of a communications
relay and act as a tactical hub between the Western Air Defense Sector, Houston
Air Route Traffic Control Center, an Air Support Operations Squadron and over
80 search and rescue aircraft.
The U.S. Navy’s P-8 Poseidon, although designed
for battlefield intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, also provided
invaluable aerial imagery of the Texas landscape through their capabilities
employed in support of civil authorities heading the relief efforts.
AFNORTH also leaned on Civil Air Patrol,
who has supported the U.S. Air Force since World War II, to collect still
imagery demanded by rescue units in the field.
Most of the assets under the control of
AFNORTH are now packing up equipment and returning to home stations as civil authorities’
transition to recovery operations.
However, as the demand for Hurricane
Harvey support wanes, AFNORTH continues to monitor the path of Hurricane Irma
and is prepared to respond at a moment’s notice.
For more news and stories on Hurricane
Harvey, visit the following link: https://www.dvidshub.net/feature/hurricaneharvey