WI National Guard demonstrates communication strength

Tech. Sgt. Nathan Thrun, 128th Emergency Management program manager, listens to his radio during an exercise at the 2014 State Interoperable Mobile Communications Exercise in Oshkosh, Wis., May 15, 2014. Members of the Wisconsin National Guard tested their ability to communicate with other agencies. The 128th ARW also tested their ability to communicate with those in helicopters flying above the exercise site. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Liechti)

Tech. Sgt. Nathan Thrun, 128th Emergency Management program manager, listens to his radio during an exercise at the 2014 State Interoperable Mobile Communications Exercise in Oshkosh, Wis., May 15, 2014. Members of the Wisconsin National Guard tested their ability to communicate with other agencies. The 128th ARW also tested their ability to communicate with those in helicopters flying above the exercise site. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Liechti)

Mobile communication units were spread across the Sunnyview Exposition Center parking lot during the 2014 State Interoperable Mobile Communications Exercise in Oshkosh, Wis., May 15, 2014. More than 100 agencies from 34 communication platforms were in attendance. Members of the Wisconsin National Guard tested their ability to communicate with other agencies to ensure everything worked properly should an emergency situation arise. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Liechti)

Mobile communication units were spread across the Sunnyview Exposition Center parking lot during the 2014 State Interoperable Mobile Communications Exercise in Oshkosh, Wis., May 15, 2014. More than 100 agencies from 34 communication platforms were in attendance. Members of the Wisconsin National Guard tested their ability to communicate with other agencies to ensure everything worked properly should an emergency situation arise. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Liechti)

The Air National Guard’s Mobile Emergency Operations Center was brought in from Peoria, Ill. for the 2014 State Interoperable Mobile Communications Exercise in the parking lot of the Sunnyview Exposition Center in Oshkosh, Wis., May 15, 2014. The MEOC serves as a go-to should anyone have trouble making their radio communication connections. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Liechti)

The Air National Guard’s Mobile Emergency Operations Center was brought in from Peoria, Ill. for the 2014 State Interoperable Mobile Communications Exercise in the parking lot of the Sunnyview Exposition Center in Oshkosh, Wis., May 15, 2014. The MEOC serves as a go-to should anyone have trouble making their radio communication connections. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Liechti)

Participants of the 2014 State Interoperable Mobile Communications Exercise listen to their morning briefing at the Sunnyview Exposition Center in Oshkosh, Wis., May 15, 2014. More than 100 agencies from 34 communication platforms were in attendance. Members of the Wisconsin National Guard attended to test their ability to communicate with other agencies to ensure everything worked properly should an emergency situation arise. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Liechti)

Participants of the 2014 State Interoperable Mobile Communications Exercise listen to their morning briefing at the Sunnyview Exposition Center in Oshkosh, Wis., May 15, 2014. More than 100 agencies from 34 communication platforms were in attendance. Members of the Wisconsin National Guard attended to test their ability to communicate with other agencies to ensure everything worked properly should an emergency situation arise. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Liechti)

A UH-60 Black Hawk circles above the Sunnyview Exposition Center during the 2014 State Interoperable Mobile Communications Exercise in Oshkosh, Wis., May 15, 2014. The UH-60 Black Hawk was used to test air-to-ground communications. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Liechti)

A UH-60 Black Hawk circles above the Sunnyview Exposition Center during the 2014 State Interoperable Mobile Communications Exercise in Oshkosh, Wis., May 15, 2014. The UH-60 Black Hawk was used to test air-to-ground communications. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Liechti)

Tech. Sgt. Brian Schmiedlin, 115th Communications Flight, ensures the communication tools are working properly inside the 115th Fighter Wing Mobile Command Post during the 2014 State Interoperable Mobile Communications Exercise in Oshkosh, Wis., May 15, 2014. The 115th FW was one of more than 100 agencies from 34 communication platforms that attended. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Liechti)

Tech. Sgt. Brian Schmiedlin, 115th Communications Flight, ensures the communication tools are working properly inside the 115th Fighter Wing Mobile Command Post during the 2014 State Interoperable Mobile Communications Exercise in Oshkosh, Wis., May 15, 2014. The 115th FW was one of more than 100 agencies from 34 communication platforms that attended. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Liechti)

OSHKOSH, Wis. -- Members of the Wisconsin National Guard and Wisconsin Emergency Management tested their mobile communications skills during the State Interoperable Mobile Communications Exercise in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, May 15. This was the first time the annual exercise was held in Northeast Wisconsin.

The SIMCOM tested mobile emergency communications platforms from federal, state, local, tribal, military, volunteer and private organizations. The Winnebago County Emergency Management, Wisconsin Emergency Management and Wisconsin National Guard-Joint Operations Center planned the event.

"The planning began last fall," said Linda Kollman, Winnebago County emergency management director. "We've been meeting on and off for the last six months."

The planning was not too much of a challenge because the event is held annually, Kollman said. The only big change was the location. Changing the location allows all the participants to verify their equipment works in different areas of the state.

"It's a good idea to be prepared," she said. "I think working out communication issues before a disaster occurs is very beneficial to everyone."

More than 100 agencies were in attendance, using 34 communication platforms. The agencies worked together to ensure proper communication is achieved should a natural disaster occur.

"We network with other entities so we understand their capabilities and they understand ours," said Senior Master Sgt. Richard Wizner, 115th Fighter Wing installation emergency manager. "It's much nicer to meet and greet people here than it would be at the scene of an actual emergency."

Throughout the day, each agency was given various scenarios to practice. This allowed all participants to verify their communication tools were working properly, and if they were not in proper working order, they now have time to fix the problems before an emergency situation - like a tornado or flooding - arises.

The National Guard participants were a key player during this exercise, but Wizner pointed out a common misconception.

"Everyone thinks the military will be large and in charge, but as a matter- of-fact we work for [the local authorities]," he said. "All incidents start at the local level and end at the local level. We're called when we are needed."
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