JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
As Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers continue to be hauled away from the south ramp of Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, members of the 902nd Security Forces Squadron are nearing the end of the important role they played in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
Ensuring the secure passage of FEMA trucks has been a 24/7 operation for the 902nd SFS in addition to its 24/7 duties as guardians of JBSA-Randolph, and it’s been a job well done, said the squadron’s leader.
“Our defenders set up site security at a moment’s notice for the FEMA staging area on the south ramp and provided flawless force protection without hindering flying operations,” said Lt. Col. Brandon Edge, 902nd SFS commander. “Setting up and securing the FEMA staging area at the south ramp was critical to ensure those affected by Hurricane Harvey were provided relief. Our defenders took ownership of these extra duties and have maintained a positive attitude throughout the entire process.”
The process actually began before Harvey’s destructive landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast the night of Aug. 25 – when the hurricane was still churning in the gulf. The squadron quickly sprang into action.
“Once we got our instructions, we started prepping sandbags for the buildings at JBSA-Randolph that are most prone to flooding,” said 1st Lt. Nathan Spradley, 902nd SFS operations officer. “We stood up our unit control center during the storm and started reporting to the emergency operations center and the crisis action team. We had patrols doing damage assessments and reporting them to the EOC and the CAT.”
Despite high winds, JBSA-Randolph escaped Harvey’s wrath with minimal damage, Spradley said. A few small trees and a large oak tree in Airmen’s Heritage Park were toppled and signs, a fence near the Main Gate and some roofs and buildings sustained damage.
“We got really lucky on this one,” he said.
JBSA’s involvement in relief efforts began with the establishment of the FEMA Incident Support Base at the JBSA-Seguin Auxiliary Air Field, which filled with FEMA trailers loaded with supplies, and continued when JBSA-Randolph became an ISB.
“When the Seguin airfield reached capacity with 1,000 trailers, the additional trailers were sent here,” Spradley said. “We pulled in 14 augmentees from the 558th Flying Training Squadron to backfill us on the gates, and we placed our guys on the south ramp for security of the trailers and at traffic control points and the commercial vehicle inspection area near the South Gate to vet drivers from FEMA and the Defense Logistics Agency.”
The JBSA-Randolph ISB accommodated more than 1,400 trailers, but that number has dropped as FEMA contends with the ravages of Hurricane Irma in Florida, Spradley said.
Dealing with traffic flow issues has been one of the greatest challenges facing the 902nd SFS since the South Gate was closed to privately owned vehicles to facilitate the passage of FEMA vehicles, Spradley said.
“From a logistical standpoint, the way JBSA-Randolph is configured makes it difficult to manage traffic even if you close one gate,” he said.
However, the squadron has risen to its challenges, Spradley said.
“These guys have done a fantastic job,” he said. “They’re still out there getting the job done with a great attitude.”
Edge also commended squadron members.
“Our Airmen never skipped a beat and never complained despite working long hours and dealing with the constant change adjusting to this new security challenge,” he said. “It amazes me every day to see what our men and women accomplish and I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead them.”