Fort McCoy, Wisconsin (July 26, 2017) --
The clanking of metal rings through the air as gears turn the slide-outs of the 132d Wing’s Mobile Emergency Operations Center (MEOC) into position. Master Sgt. Brad Kuennen, a Radio Frequency Transmissions Systems technician, and Tech. Sgt. Joseph Stickel, a Cyber Transportation technician, work together to open and start up the MEOC. By the final day of the PATRIOT North 2017 Exercise at Volk Field Air National Guard Base and Fort McCoy, Wis. their repeated actions become natural without thought.
The 132d Wing’s MEOC is one of 23 in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) 10 regions. MEOCs are assets that can be used in times of natural disasters and major accidents, among other events. Some highlighted aspects are that it provides satellite internet, a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone system, Harris Tactical Radios, an Orion Weather Station, 700/800 MHz, UHF and VHF radios and a 360 degree video monitoring system.
A crew of about seven Airmen from the 132d Wing manage and operate the aspects of the 20,000 pound, 40 feet MEOC trailer. Kuennen and Stickel are specifically responsible for maintaining and operating the communications equipment.
Kuennen has been a part of the MEOC crew for the last four years and is in charge of the radios. Stickel has been on board for the last year and a half and both are responsible for maintaining the communication equipment on the trailer. This includes patching computers and servers, keeping the radios in working condition and during exercises, such as PATRIOT North 2017 and operating those systems.
“If there’s any troubleshooting for anything that comes up, whether it be computer or radio wise, we’re there to help,” said Stickel.
The MEOC provides communications for on scene commanders during natural disasters and training exercises. In order to do this, the MEOCs generator and battery can run for three days straight, or five days intermittent, to keep operations going.
“All the MEOCs are essential to helping with any kind of natural disaster or any training exercises by providing a central location for personnel to come and get their communications established,” said Stickel.
Over the next few years the MEOCs in all 10 FEMA regions will be undergoing upgrades, but as of now Kuennen and Stickel have been working on making small improvements to better the operations of the 132d Wing’s MEOC. This included finding a new way to store the satellite phones to clear up desk space.
They said that they hope these improvements help with future tasking that the MEOC must be at and they plan to do more work in the coming weeks.
Kuennen said that he enjoys being a part of the MEOC because he gets the opportunity to help communities out in their time of need. He said that during exercises he gets to experience new opportunities and take those memories and tips home with him.
While future missions of the MEOC are unknown, Kuennen and Stickel said they look forward to other training opportunities in order to be prepared for the possibility of future natural disasters.
“I’m excited about building new and lasting relationships with all the different local, state and federal partners in the future,” said Kuennen.