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Missouri Citizen Airmen support earthquake disaster response exercise

JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri -- Missouri National Guardsmen, alongside local, state and federal partner agencies, recently tested their ability to respond to a major earthquake along the New Madrid Seismic Zone.

The exercise was designed to test the Guard's operational readiness across the state in the event of a major earthquake on Missouri's eastern border.

Citizen Airmen from the Missouri Air National Guard exercised command-and-control processes at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri, where a base emergency operations center and unit control centers were activated in order to exercise accountability processes, contingency communications systems, mobile EOC operations, as well as the unit's internal and external communications procedures.

Participants from the 131st Bomb Wing, the 157th Air Operations Group, the 239th Combat Communications Squadron and the 231st Civil Engineer Flight supported the exercise..

An earthquake like the one simulated in the event has not occurred in more than 200 years, but this opportunity allowed emergency response forces to prepare for the worst-case scenario, said Lt. Col. Ryon Richmond, director of Joint Education and Training with the Missouri National. Guard.

"This is an opportunity to train our forces on the processes and procedures of a response to an event," Richmond said. "Through this, we are allowed to refine and update our best practices."

The exercise tested participants' ability to overcome a wide range of large and small obstacles they would face in a real-world event. These include communication issues, damaged roads, providing medical care, and getting food, water and other vital supplies to the affected area, Richmond said.

"One of the key challenges we face is getting resources that are needed into the state, and then into the affected areas," Richmond said.

The Missouri National Guard and the State Emergency Management Agency form a cohesive team that is responsible for coordinating all response efforts. Keeping open lines of communication between the organizations is crucial to ensuring the affected communities.