Air Force Trains for Disaster in Salinas, CA.

By MARIA INES ZAMUDIO
The Salinas Californian
July 15, 2008

About 140 members of the U.S. Air Force and Army National Guard have set up a tent city at the Salinas Municipal Airport this week for disaster-response training. The goal is to improve how the military conducts humanitarian relief efforts, both domestically and abroad, said Col. Phil Miller of the Kentucky National Guard. The Salinas airport is one of five airfields in Central California where the military is conducting simultaneous training exercises, Miller said. In Salinas, the group is acting as first responders to an 8.2 earthquake tsunami that has hit a country called “Califon” and left more than 10,000 casualties. The exercise includes providing around-the-clock air and ground support for numerous C-130 and C-17 aircraft, which will be heard flying over Salinas this week.

“We’re getting ready for a Katrina-like disaster,” said Col. Matt Yotter, who runs the C-17 unit. “If we are ever called to a natural disaster, we’ll be ready and effective.”

The Salinas training involves members of the Travis Air Force Base 572nd Contingency Response Group working alongside their counterparts from the Louisville, Ky.-based 123rd Contingency Response Group with the Kentucky Air National Guard.

The other training locations include the Travis AFB, Schoonover Field in San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles Municipal Airport and Castle Field in Merced. All told, more than 1,000 members of the military are participating in the training, which includes 20 aircraft.

This is the only major Air Force contingency response exercise on the West Coast so far this year, Miller said.

“It is important to stay current,” said Sgt. Larry Burba of Kentucky, who was helping a group build a shower tent Monday. “This training helps us know what to do in case of an emergency, which could potentially save lives.”

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