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Communications Exercise tests abilities of Guard in disasters

Communication is the key to any disaster response. That’s why the Joint Force Headquarters communications conducted a two-day exercise recently to test its ability to reach multiple armories across the state.

“We had five armories and four Joint Incident Site Communication Capabilities participate in the exercise this year,” said Maj. Yeng Lacanlale, a communication officer with the Washington Army National Guard. “Through the exercise we were able to identify some of the issues that need to be addressed before the Cascadia Rising 2022 exercise.”

Following Cascadia Rising 2016, a full-scale earthquake exercise simulating a catastrophic quake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone, the Washington National Guard identified key gaps that need to be addressed in the event of a real earthquake disaster.

“The communications exercise focused on different layers of digital and radio communications capabilities,” said Lacanlale. “One focus of the exercise is validating HF radio capabilities between a headquarters element, communications unit, and Washington National Guard armories.”

Communications personnel focused on setting up systems, antennas, and conduct communications checks with several locations across the state. The goal is simple: get all armory radios fully operational and conducting routine radio checks to ensure they continue to work properly.

"It's not just about the exercise for us," said Maj. Gen. Bret D. Daugherty, the director of the Washington Military Department and commander of the Washington National Guard, during a 2019 presentation. "We really want to be prepared for the day an actual earthquake hits. The better prepared and the more assistance we can get from Guard Bureau will only make us stronger, and it is really beneficial for the citizens of our state."

While the focus of the exercise was ensuring communications worked in certain locations, it also brought airmen, soldiers and members of the Washington State Guard together for the first time since 2016.

“This was a truly joint exercise, comprising of Army and Air National Guard as well as Washington State Guard participants,” said Col. Michael Burk, communications officer with Joint Force Headquarters. “In the event of an actual state-wide emergency we will rely on all three, in addition to civilian organizations and volunteers, to provide the robust communications required for an immediate and effective response.”