Feature Search


  • Published
Over 30 national guardsmen from the 186th Air Operations Group (AOG) at Key Field, Miss. participated in the annual Defense Support to Civil Authorities exercise Ardent Sentry 2019 training, May 28-June 5.

The earthquake scenario played out a 7.7 magnitude earthquake along the Mississippi River that caused catastrophic damage along the New Madrid Seismic Zone impacting an eight state area, including the cities of Memphis, Tenn. and St. Louis, Mo.

AOG guardsmen, working under Air Forces Northern, the air component to U.S. Northern Command, trained along with thousands of participants from across the Department of Defense as well as FEMA and local and state authorities.

The Ardent Sentry exercise focuses on U.S. NORTHCOM’s Defense Support to Civil Authorities mission and typically focuses on catastrophic natural disasters.

Col. John Grimes, acting Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region – First Air Force (AFNORTH) operations director and former group commander of the 186th AOG, said that the devastation of a hurricane plays out the same as in an earthquake, but without the warning.

“The big difference is that there is no time to prepare, no time for evacuation which could contribute to greater loss of life,” Grimes said.

Grimes mentioned that the timeliness of the response in an earthquake presents challenges because of the major impact of infrastructure like bridges and airfields in the affected area.

Maj. Gen. Thomas Cucchi, Air National Guard assistant to the commander, CONR – 1AF (AFNORTH), and acting Joint Forces Air Component Commander for the Ardent Sentry 19 exercise remarked that the support that the 186th AOG provides AFNORTH is key to mission accomplishment in whatever scenario is presented.

“The seamless augmentation the Meridian guardsmen from the AOG, gives us here at AFNORTH is crucial to our no-fail mission,” said Cucchi. “They bring a world of expertise having supported us for exercises like Ardent Sentry and real-world operations like Hurricane Michael.”

Last fall when Hurricane Michael made impact on the Florida panhandle, 186th AOG personnel, under the authority of U.S. NORTHCOM, supported FEMA with almost 700 man days both at Tyndall and Langley Air Force bases respectively.

The primary mission of the 186th AOG is to provide augmentation to CONR-1AF (AFNORTH) who is the senior agency in the United States Theater Air Control System and is specifically responsible for the land areas of the continental United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the surrounding seas out to approximately 500 nautical miles. When tasked, it conducts homeland defense and Defense Support of Civil Authorities operations in the U.S. NORTHCOM area of responsibility.