Saturday, November 6, 2010

Guardsmen Turn Combat Technology into Tool for Saving Lives

Updated November 8, 2009

A Maryland Air National Guard pilot prepares to fly an A-10C aircraft as part of Exercise Vigilant Guard at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Baltimore, Md., Nov. 5, 2010. Exercise Vigilant Guard is a multi-state, multi-service, multi-agency emergency management disaster response exercise. (Photo by Sgt. Jennifer Sardam) Hi-res

Note: Pictured is A-10C 78-0693 (80693 in front of the windshield).

by 1st Lt. Kurt M. Rauschenberg
29th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

11/6/2010 - BALTIMORE -- Technology designed to increase the combat effectiveness of A-10 attack jets is now being used to prepare to help save lives according to Maryland Air National Guard officials.

Exercise Vigilant Guard is an annual training exercise designed to prepare National Guard units to support civilian agencies during a major disaster or terrorist attack. A-10Cs from Maryland's 175th Wing provided emergency responders on the ground with unprecedented situational awareness. Pilots from the squadron carried a Remote Operated Video Enhanced Receiver (ROVER) to capture ground imagery to assist emergency first responders.

ROVER was originally intended to allow fighters to provide a direct video feed to troops on the ground, so they could guide airstrikes against enemy positions. But the same capability could also provide crucial real-time information to emergency first responders during a disaster, as the Maryland National Guard is now demonstrating.

The idea of using aircraft such as the A-10, which was designed to destroy enemy tanks and other ground targets, to rescue disaster victims might at first seem paradoxical. But the A-10's ability to carry sensors like ROVER give it a critical capability that can save lives.

"The ROVER device used in this exercise helps us by looking at the ground to sort out what exactly is going on and how to react," said Col. Timothy G. Smith, Maryland Air National Guard director of operations.

The scenario for this iteration of Exercise Vigilant Guard is an explosion that collapses part of a chemical production facility, causing mass casualties and trapping many people in the building. In the scenario, National Guard personnel and assets are called upon to assist civil authorities in coping with the disaster.

"Our capability to assist in this situation gives us a viable domestic mission and we are here to help in any way we can," Colonel Smith said.

When civilian agencies request Maryland National Guard resources to provide airborne incident awareness and assessment capabilities, two A-10Cs from the 175th Wing equipped with ROVER pods are launched. The jets orbit over the disaster area, providing a direct imagery feed to Maryland Joint Operations Center personnel, allowing them to make quick and accurate response decisions.

"This is the first time that IAA capabilities has been used on fixed-wing aircraft that can provide imagery from a higher distance and sustain longer in the air," said Col. Randolph J. Staudenraus, 175th Operations Group commander. Colonel Staudenraus explained that although these capabilities are primarily used in overseas operations, the same resources can be used in domestic crisis operations as well. "This is another step toward using our capabilities to assist the state by providing civilian first responders with the information needed to save lives on the ground," he said.

Two Maryland Air National Guard A-10C aircraft depart arfield Air National Guard Base, Baltimore, Md., Nov. 5, 2010, as part of Exercise Vigilant Guard, a multi-state, multi-service, multi-agency emergency management disaster response exercise. The aircraft will provide airborne reconnaissance to emergency responders on the ground. (Photo by Sgt. Jennifer Sardam) Hi-res

Note: Pictured are A-10Cs 79-0175 (foreground) and 79-0086. Note the different colored squadron insignias on the engine nacelles.

Sometimes later, the following additional picture was released:

Maintenance personnel of the Maryland Air National Guard's 175th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron prepare to launch A-10C aircraft equipped with LITENING sensor pods at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Baltimore, Md., Nov. 6, 2010. The pods use the ROVER enhancement to beam imagery to the ground in real time. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jennifer Sardam) Hi-res

Full size view of the new insignia, extracted by me from the added hi-res picture above.


See also:
Base Hosts Hundreds as Vigilant Guard Kicks Off


  1. The insignia are different colors because one of them is faded from sunlight.

  2. Here's a link to the MDANG's official unit insignia:

    One thing that's interesting is that this insignia is technically "wrong" from a heraldic standpoint, because it's facing the wrong direction. From a military heraldry point of view, this would make it an entirely different insignia from the one facing in the correct direction.

  3. Thanks for your reply. But please note: The added picture clearly shows a different insignia (a black and white bird instead of the well-known black and red bird).

    Please give me time to research the circumstances.

    Joachim "J.J." Jacob
    Warthog News Editor

  4. J.J.,

    Just a follow-up to the comment on the "new" insignia: The reason the color is faded unevenly is that red typically is a less stable ink color and therefore more prone to fading than other colors. Although it's actually orange in the insignia (the bird is an Oriole) I suspect red is one of the component colors used to made the decal. If you look at the close-up, you can see that the dark blue has faded to light blue, the yellow is starting to wash out in some places, and the black is starting to turn gray. I'm sure the next time the plane is repainted, it will be replaced by one with the normal orange Oriole (which will probably also eventually fade...).

    Thanks for all the coverage you give our wing!

    Capt. Wayde Minami
    Chief of Public Affairs

  5. Thank you very much for visiting Warthog News and for your helpful follow-up, Wayde.

    That means, the red color of this individual decal has been faded completely?

    Joachim "J.J." Jacob
    Warthog News Editor