Alaska National Guard unveils newest domestic operations capability

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Emily Batchelor
  • 176th Wing Public Affairs

Alaska Air National Guardsmen of the176th Civil Engineering Squadron hosted a ribbon cutting event at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson to present the Disaster Relief Beddown System and other equipment May 22, 2023.

When a state declares an emergency in the wake of a typhoon, flood, earthquake, other natural disaster or civil unrest, the National Guard and its equipment can be tasked by state or federal authorities to support domestic operations. For the state of Alaska, the DRBS significantly expands the Alaska National Guard’s response capability.

Designed to provide safe housing and sanitation, the DRBS is a palletized, rapid-deployable tent system capable of sleeping approximately 150 personnel.

“[The DRBS] was created in the wake of Hurricane Katrina,” said Alaska Air National Guard Chief Master Sgt. Michael Keegan, 176th CES senior enlisted leader. “The kit was first fielded to the respective Federal Emergency Management Agency regions back in 2012 – 2014 through the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriations.”

Putting the systems to the test, the National Guard deployed DRBS to provide humanitarian and disaster response in the wake of hurricanes Irma, Maria and Harvey in 2017. The system was deployed to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico that same year, resulting in its largest deployment to date.

Transportable by ground, sea or air, the system is scalable to the individual response efforts and can be deployed with partial or full capabilities.

Assembly and disassembly require heavy equipment so the system includes an all-terrain forklift with a capacity of 13,000 pounds and a tracked skid steer; both of which can be utilized for other disaster relief functions.

At full capability, the housing unit includes laundry machines, showers, sinks, toilets and water purification. It is also climate controlled with generators, heaters and air conditioning to ensure comfortable living quarters in extreme weather conditions ranging from the arctic to equatorial regions.

The Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit is able to generate potable water from nearly any source, to include salt water, at a rate of 1500 gallons per hour. The ROWPU comes with two 20,000-gallon water bladders, one for clean water and one to collect gray and black water from showers, sinks, washing machines and latrines.

Enabling a more comprehensive response, the DRBS is compatible with other equipment kits that the Alaska Air National Guard maintains. The Disaster Relief Mobile Kitchen Trailer includes chainsaws, a skid steer, a loader and other equipment used to clear debris. The Single Pallet Expeditionary Kitchen includes a tent-based field kitchen equipped with a diesel generator and equipment feed three hot meals a day to 555 personnel.

Beginning in November 2022, the Alaska National Guard has received portions of the DRBS and tested it in multiple environments.

“Last year, the 176th CES partnered with the 141st Civil Engineering Squadron [141st Air Refueling Wing, Washington Air National Guard] to practice a rapid response to an Alaska disaster by deploying a scaled package of the DRBS from Fairchild Air Force Base to Kodiak, Alaska, during exercise Arctic Eagle 2022,” Keegan said. “The team established the base then sustained and developed arctic solutions to operating the kit in sub-freezing temperatures.”

This year, the full system was deployed during a Prime Base Engineer Expeditionary Force 96-hour contingency training Scruffy Devil exercise led by the 177th Fighter Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard at JBER.

“We [Air National Guard civil engineering squadrons] are required to maintain a team for DOMOPS response as well as contingencies,” said New Jersey Air National Guard John Koza, 108th Civil Engineer Squadron commander. “The teams are made up of all different [Air Force specialty codes, including] water and fuels maintenance, electricians, heavy equipment operators. [The] DOMOPS teams would include pretty much all of our [civil engineer] AFSCs except for emergency management, [explosive ordnance disposal], and fire.”