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Joint operations center conducts blackout exercise

Personnel from the Joint Operations Center, JOC, at the Joint Force Readiness Center in Cheyenne, Wyo., are conducting exercise “Lights Out,” Feb. 6-8, 2020. The blackout cold weather exercise is intended to simulate a real-world scenario in the event the National Guard gets called to active duty by the Governor of Wyoming. The National Guard works in partnership with civilian authorities to help with situations like road closures and search and rescue if needed.

“It helps build relationships,” Col. Dane Rodgers of the Army National Guard says, “That’s where we really focus on with the joint staff, is working with civilian partners.”

Although the exercise was planned a while ago, the actual weather being frigid and windy makes for a more realistic scenario. The team is allowed to use cell phones and laptops, but only until the batteries die. They adapted to the use of analog tools like paper, pencil, and whiteboards, to write down all information. Apart from the natural light coming in from the windows, lanterns lit up the dark areas of the room.

“It’s very coincidental,” Rodgers says, “because we had this planned as a scenario already, and then we got the storm earlier this week.”

When the National Guard is called to active duty, relationships with civilian authorities need to be in place in order for everything to run smoothly.

“The people that work here at the JOC full-time, go to all the different counties,” Lt. Col. Tina Tweedy of the Air National Guard says, “and you have to develop relationships with all of the emergency managers in those counties so they know who we are, and what our capabilities are.”

The Wyoming Civil Air Patrol was also present. An auxiliary of the Air Force, they were invited to observe the exercise and share their abilities with the guard, and vice versa, learning about new resource tracking tools.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to talk with the people here in the JOC,” says Lt. Col. Rick Fawcett of the Wyoming Civil Air Patrol, “we sincerely appreciate the invitation to come and observe, just to build our working relationship. There are some new tools available to help keep track of resources, so we’re sharing those.”

The JOC completed their “Lights Out” exercise on Feb. 8, 2020.