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Homeland Security

Airmen help flooding recovery efforts

by Senior Master Sgt. Matt Proietti
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

4/10/2008 - WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- Airmen from McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., recently provided satellite imagery to assist state and federal agencies in relief efforts following flooding in Missouri and Arkansas.

Members of the 169th Communications Flight at McEntire Joint National Guard Base collected imagery using Eagle Vision, a mobile commercial imagery direct downlink system, to use in damage assessment and reconstruction in the two states.

Through Eagle Vision, Air Force officials receive images from commercial satellites. Airmen process data and forward it to the U.S. Geological Survey, which distributes it to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, coordinator of the federal government's role in preparing for -- and recovering from -- domestic disasters.

Eagle Vision has provided about 15 images in response to the tornadoes and floods that have occurred in Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and surrounding states over the past two months, said Brenda Jones, disaster response coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey Earth Resources Observation and Science Center in Sioux Falls, S.D.

"The images have been a valuable asset in determining areas of impact and in damage assessment," Ms. Jones said. "Eagle Vision (is) a valuable asset in the acquisition of remotely sensed imagery during disaster response. Having a link to the systems operations team has provided the opportunity to schedule acquisitions based on changing priorities from the response community."

Eagle Vision is a total force effort. Active-duty, Reserve and Guard Airmen operate the system at four U.S. bases and one in Germany. The Army also has an Eagle Vision unit.

"It helps recovery and response efforts and provides training for our crews," said Jerry Brooks, director of the Air Force Combat Support Office Chief of Staff Innovation Program at the Pentagon.

Communication improvement in the last five years between government agencies has allowed the Air Force to be more helpful, Mr. Brooks said.

"My boss says, 'If it's on CNN, we're working it, too," he said of his supervisor, James Clark. "We send imagery to those who need it, and we'll be there until they tell us they don't need us anymore."

In their combat support role, Eagle Vision units deploy to provide planning and mission assistance for military operations. Each system is staffed by 12 to 15 people. Operational within three hours of arrival, Eagle Vision can respond with processed imagery data support within two to four hours of its collection.

The system evolved from a wartime need during Operation Desert Storm for a timely and responsive method to acquire broad area imagery to support contingency operation applications, Mr. Brooks said.

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