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AOG member assists in Gulf Coast cleanup 
Tar Ball on the beach 

An example of a tar ball found on the beaches of the Gulf Coast. Service members will call up the grid coordinates of where the tar ball is located to expedite cleaning up the beaches. (U.S. Photo by Spc. Stephanie Cassinos)

Senior Airman David Cox

Senior Airman David Cox

By Air Force Technical Sgt. Andrew Reitano, 102nd Intelligence Wing Public Affairs 

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - While many Massachusetts residents leave Florida during the summer months and come back to the Bay State, Senior Airman David Cox headed down to the Sunshine State not to relax but to assist in Operation Deepwater Horizon – the Gulf Coast cleanup.

“Ever since the incident occurred, all I’ve heard about is civilian volunteers from all over the country and local residents from the Gulf area stepping up to protect their livelihood and cleaning up the oil,” said Cox. “I just felt compelled to get involved and somehow make a difference in helping people in this part of the country.”

Cox, a member of the 102nd Air Operations Group, spent 30 days at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., as part of an Air Force Master Air Attack Plan cell team coordinating air traffic information from three different command posts.

“Everyday the team was receiving a variety of flight information from Miami, Mobile (Ala.) and Houma (La.),” said Cox. “Our job was to coordinate and centralize all of the information so that it was in one standard format that all the parties involved in air operations activities could understand.”

As devastating as the oil spill has been to the areas and people of the Gulf Coast, the incident has provided all of the military and civilian agencies working together a better understanding of how to interact with each other more effectively.

“Coming into the situation, it seemed that all of the different agencies involved had their own unique way of conducting business,” explained Cox. “We [military] established new protocols for working with civilians and building new platforms of communication so that everyone could understand the different wordings and concepts all the agencies used internally.”

Being exposed to a joint force environment and interacting with multiple civilian agencies, including BP, also provided Cox with a new level of experience he may not have received as a traditional Guardsman working at home station.

“I’ve been in the Guard for less than two years and have been looking for an opportunity to go operational,” said Cox. “Getting more involved in what the Massachusetts Air National Guard does on a national level has been a great experience and learning opportunity.”