Minnesota Guard communications platform responds to Red River floods

  • Published
  • By Sgt. Eric Jungels
  • Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs
The Minnesota National Guard deployed a Remote Communications Platform to the Moorhead area in early April 2011. The platform, or RCP, provides or extends communication capabilities for emergency response personnel and is being operated by Air Guard members in a joint Minnesota Army and Air National Guard mission supporting the Red River flood response.

The RCP eliminates disconnect in times when faultless communication is imperative to coordinating emergency operations and safeguarding people's lives.

Air Force Master Sgt. Andrew K. Tetzlaff, of Hastings, Minn., a member of the 210th Engineering Installation Squadron, is part of the team which deploys and operates the RCP.

"Our mission here, right now," says Tetzlaff, "is to give military personnel extended range on the UHF radios that they are using out here. We can also give them--if they need it--extended range on the 800 megahertz radios, and we have a system that will bridge, or patch, the two systems together so military radios can talk to civilian radios."

"We're using the RCP's repeaters to extend the range of handheld UHF radios, so that Guard members supporting the flood response can communicate over a broader area," said Tetzlaff. "The RCP provides them with a range of several miles."

The RCP gives the National Guard the power to integrate multiple communications systems, said Tetzlaff. He explained how the National Guard, which predominantly operates using UHF radios, can now be connected with local and state emergency responders, who are using the Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response (ARMER) system.

"The Sheriff's Office is using the ARMER system, which is an FM system that is used statewide for all emergency systems right now," said Tetzlaff. The RCP can join together multiple systems, allowing communication between the two mediums, which would otherwise operate independently of each other.

The ARMER system is a major element of Minnesota's long term interoperable communication planning. The Statewide Radio Board, under the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, has been charged with developing and applying statewide standards on communications systems, so that agencies can communicate in the event of an emergency or disaster.

At the direction of the governor's executive order, 200 members of the Minnesota National Guard were activated for flood duty in western Minnesota. Guard members have been conducting levee patrols, monitoring water pumps and securing road blocks in the communities of Moorhead, Oakport and Georgetown, Minn.

Members of the Moorhead-based 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry have been conducting foot patrols along the newly-carved banks of the bloated Red and Buffalo Rivers. They have been monitoring the performance of the levees and providing early warnings to local officials when concerns arise. As water levels rise, existing levee systems can be stressed to the point of giving out or allowing dangerous leakage.

Traci Goble, the Mayor of Georgetown, said that members of the National Guard, who are using the UHF radios to communicate and coordinate operations, have been doing regular levee checks adjacent to flooded areas to ensure the safety of the town's residents.

"They are giving our residents great peace of mind," said Goble. "People can sleep better at night, knowing that Guard is out watching."