COMALAPA AIR BASE, El Salvador –
Using a reconnaissance system originally developed for conducting ground combat reconnaissance missions, two Joint Task Force-Bravo civil engineers provided damage assessment for humanitarian purposes during a regional disaster relief exercise involving military and civilian agencies here May 5.
Flying aboard a JTF-Bravo UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, the engineers used an Automated Route Reconnaissance Kit to collect and quickly distribute information relating to damage associated with the scenario.
The planners for the exercise, designated Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias 2008, used a devastating earthquake for their scenario.
According to Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mike Vaughn, JTF-Bravo civil engineer and ARRK operator, the system's gyroscope, global positioning satellite technology, digital video camera and touch-screen computer eases the burden of collecting data and enables operators to hand the data off quickly for analysis by U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Army South headquarters and other nations or civilian agencies seeking the imagery for damage assessment.
"The ARRK is a user-friendly system and a very accurate way to collect the information various relief agencies use to determine the scale and scope of assistance and response required in the area," Sergeant Vaughn said. "In real world disasters, relief agencies need to know what kind of damage they are dealing with as soon as possible, and the ARRK enables us to go and get the imagery needed for leadership to get a birds-eye view of the damage."
Sergeant Vaughn said since the system allows him to hold the camera, there is better control over what is being recorded, which is an improvement over static cameras mounted on the aircraft. "Analysts get a more detailed "human eye" view of the terrain below," he said.
Flying a pre-determined flight path and using a coffee factory destroyed in a 2001 earthquake as a final destination backdrop, Army Capt. Sarah Williams, JTF-Bravo civil engineer, said the imagery was a realistic product which was provided to all military and civilian agencies involved in the exercise.
"After we recorded the imagery, we uplinked the data using a field video teleconferencing system and we sent it to our assessment teams in the United States who, in turn, begin to immediately send it to all agencies involved in the exercise recovery process," Captain Williams said.
Captain Williams said using the ARRK during this exercise allows JTF-Bravo to meet one its training objectives of sharing technological capabilities.
"Providing this capability during this exercise gives the host nation an introduction to this capability and, hopefully, word will spread about the JTF-Bravo's wide-range capabilities."
The ARRK is currently being used around the world by military units and emergency operations responders. More than 60 kits have been deployed, within every U.S. Combatant Command and with units around the globe.
The Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias 2008 exercise runs May 5-15 bringing together experts in all aspects of disaster planning and response and involves various military and civilian and management agencies from Central America and the Caribbean Basin.