“We got the call Tuesday to pack a bag and after driving 24 hours we pushed our way into Panama City, through downed power lines, fallen trees and rubble. It was dark but you could still see the destruction and it was clear these communities needed our help,” - Senior Airman Albert Yost, 290th Joint Communications Support Squadron, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.
Imagine thousands of people - doctors, firefighters, rescue swimmers, road crews and more - ready to save lives and rebuild, but no one could communicate where or when to go.
The Joint Communications Support Element, which consists of active duty, reserve and National Guard squadrons, ensures vital communications between those heroes for Hurricane Michael response.
JCSE’s 290th Joint Communications Support Squadron, Florida Air National Guard, restored communication services for emergency operations centers of Bay, Jackson, Holmes, Washington and Liberty counties, serving a total resident population of 283,000.
The eight teams continue to relocate throughout the panhandle, supporting disaster relief operations by ensuring communication capabilities.
JCSE and 290th JCSS live and train together at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., allowing unmatched interoperability during contingency operations. The installation’s support platform, the 6th Air Mobility Wing, supports their rapid movements by providing the basics such as Meals Ready to Eat (MRE).
“As a support unit sometimes we lose sight of our piece in the bigger picture. When one of the staff in the Bay County Emergency Operations Center shouted ‘We have comms! You are making magic happen!’ I felt like I was really making a difference for people.” - SSgt Thomas Lilly, 290th Joint Communications Support Squadron, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.