OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass.
-- Airmen from two units at Otis Air National Guard Base provided key support to a local, combination “drive-thru” flu clinic and flu pandemic exercise, Nov. 14, 2008., in Sandwich, Mass.
The 267th Combat Communications Squadron provided communications support to more than 100 flu clinic workers and volunteers with their Joint Incident Site Communications Capability while the 102nd Medical Group assisted civilian public health officials and nursing students from Cape Cod Community College, administering flu shots to more than 950 residents and employees of the town.
While the number one priority of the day was the real world, “drive-thru” flu clinic for town residents and employees, the secondary focus was testing the town's emergency mass dispensing plan which would go into effect in the event of a real world flu pandemic or similar emergency medical situation.
With the importance of effective communications to the success of any event, the 267th Combat Communications Squadron's job was a big one. A job made easier thanks to the JISCC system.
"The JISCC system was developed in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina. During the initial response to those disasters, communication between federal, state and local agencies proved difficult because the communications equipment of different agencies were not compatible. Federal authorities recognized the need for an interoperable communications package that could bridge the gap between first responders. The JISCC system was designed to meet this need. Every U.S. state and territory has at least one JISCC supported by its Army and Air National Guard. There are a total of 92 JISCC systems across the country, with three operated by the Massachusetts National Guard; one stationed at Otis with the 267th Combat Communications Squadron, one with the 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and one at Joint Force Headquarters in Milford," said 1st Lt. John Stringfellow, 267th Combat Communications Squadron communications officer.
The flu clinic and flu pandemic exercise, which lasted 7 hours, was a perfect example of Massachusetts Air National Guard Airmen executing their primary mission of service to the community. The Town of Sandwich planned the exercise, submitted a formal request for military support with Joint Force Headquarters in Milford, Mass. and the two Otis units were mobilized to provide support as needed.
"The Air National Guard met all of my expectations including the communication and vaccination distribution functions...I wanted to show that the Air Guard and civilian components could function as one," said John J. Burke, Town of Sandwich fire prevention officer and operations section chief for the exercise.
After seamlessly providing communications support for flu clinic volunteers from the town of Sandwich, Department of Health and Human Services, Civil Air Patrol, United States Coast Guard, and the 102nd Intelligence Wing, the feelings of mission accomplishment were shared by all. "The exercise was outstanding. It met and exceeded all of my expectations and I can't wait to assist with another exercise like this on an even bigger scale," said Capt. Stephen Dillon, 267th Combat Communications Squadron operations officer and the incident commander's military representative for the exercise.