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812th CES Exercises sUAS Capabilities

  • Published
  • By Grady Fontana
  • 412th Test Wing

The 812th Civil Engineering Squadron’s quarterly exercise kicked-off June 4 in North Base at Edwards Air Force Base, California, with a goal to increase interoperability and to hone emergency response capabilities between the three flights of CES: Ordnance Disposal, Fire Department and Emergency Management.

The scenario was set on a dirt road during a notional wartime deployment and the entry control point at the friendly-forces compound had witnessed military-aged males unloading suspicious packages.

During the process of investigating the situation, the team received further intelligence reports that there were chemical weapons at the site—an improvised rocket that contained sarin gas.

The 812th CES’s three flights must work together as a team to diffuse the situation.

“The whole point of our exercise is to get the entire squadron involved,” said Technical Sgt. Monica D. Balcsik, noncommissioned officer in-charge, EOD training, 812th CES. “The fire department cordons the area, EOD handles the rocket, and the chemical portion is for our emergency management team. So it’s going to be up to them to work together and figure out how to solve this problem.”

Interoperability does not start at the exercise. Planning and building the exercise involved members from each flight. Representatives from each section met and came up with a scenario that was beneficial to all.

In this scenario, Balcsik led the charge, along with proctors from other sections, to draft, staff and publish the exercise scenario.

“So by running this exercise we’re learning a lot more about what all the other teams can offer in the hopes that when we have a real-life situation, we'll be a lot more efficient and be able to work together more effectively,” said Balcsik.

The second goal of the exercise was to bring the future faster. For the first time, CES used a small Unmanned Aircraft System in a CE interoperability exercise.

According to Maj. Adam W. Burwinkle, commander, 812th CES, the sUAS drastically enhanced interoperability and efficiency.

“The primary goal of the exercise was to deal with chemical and hazmat weapons; but the drone employment, as we move on our line-of-effort to bring the future faster, nested perfectly with that,” said Burwinkle. “We still could have done this without the drone. We just did it better with it. Furthering sUAS usage at Edwards Air Force Base and its employment with combat support is one of my goals.”

Another positive aspect of incorporating the sUAS is that the fire department was able to get an image of the threat to EOD and they were able identify in a general sense the type of ammunition and best way to mitigate the threat.

“Within 10 minutes of being on scene, we had the sUAS in the air, and we were able to put eyes on the item to identify where and what it was. We're able to identify the coordinates,” said Ronald Watson, division chief, 812th CES and IC for the exercise. “The easy direction into the scene, from the incident command point, was the best thing for us because normally 45 minutes-in is when we start making entry to see what we were dealing with.”

Although the fire department has used drones during some operations, this is their first implementation during an exercise, and Alan Leckie, lead firefighter, 812th CES, piloted the sUAS.

“Most of the time you'd have to send someone in into harm's way,” said Leckie. “When we send this drone, we can get a greater-scale picture of where a threat might be located, we could get GPS coordinates, and we could do it safely, while the IC can visualize what we're seeing first-person.”

In a similar scenario, the incident commander would have to talk over a radio with someone who is at the incident to report what they are seeing. The sUAS allows the IC to capture information in real-time.

“You see instantaneous communication everywhere and situational awareness is radically improved; that's a huge leap forward,” said Burwinkle. “Over the last few years, our adversaries have routinely employed radio-detonated IEDs so a use of a radio can be a threat to operations. Here, we are able to employ a drone at a distance that does not potentially interact with another device. It's game changing.”

Edwards provides care, opportunities for children aged six weeks through high school graduation

Edwards provides care, opportunities for childrenaged six weeks through high school graduation

The Child and Youth Program at Edwards AFB provides care and opportunities for kids ages six weeks old through high school graduation. A brief summary of those services follows:

  •                    The Child Development Center cares for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years, with a DOD-wide curriculum. The curriculum is focused on learning through play activities supporting social, emotional, physical and intellectual development. Installations across DOD follow the curriculum on the same timeline to allow seamless permanent change-of-station transitions for youth enrolled in care.
  •                    The School Age Center provides before and after-school care and summer camp for children ages 5 to 12. During school breaks, full-day camps are offered. SAC promotes cognitive, social, emotional, cultural, language and physical development through programs that encourage self-confidence, curiosity, self-discipline and resiliency.
  •                    The open recreation program at the Main Youth Center provides a safe space for ages 9 to 12 to attend after school. Programs include Power Hour, STEM, Torch Club, social recreation, youth camps, special events and more.
  •                    The youth sports program provides intro and league opportunities for ages 3 to 12, and promotes inclusiveness, self-discipline, commitment, resiliency and social skills. There are four sports offered annually for ages five to 12: baseball/softball, soccer, flag football and basketball. Smart start programs are available to ages 3 to 5. There are many other sports and camps offered throughout the year.
  •                    The Teen Center is available for ages 13 to 18 during the school year. Programs offered include Military Youth of the Year, Keystone Club, social recreation, STEM activities, college trips, leadership camps and more.
  •                    Youth programs (SAC, open rec and teen) are affiliated with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and 4-H.
  •                    Family Child Care homes – there are currently three FCC homes on the installation. They can provide care for ages two weeks to 12 years. FCC providers are trained by Child and Youth Program training and curriculum specialists and have the flexibility to determine their hours of operation and the ages of youth within their care. The program’s new dedicated manager, Jennifer Stegmann, may be reached at 661-275-7529.

Although CDC enrollment capacity is 317, not all slots are currently filled because of a shortage of childcare workers. School Age Center enrollment capacity is 156. After-school care enrollment is 130. Before-school care enrollment is 75. Summer Camp 2022 was at its capacity and enrollment for Summer Camp 2023 opens April 3.