MS State Guard trains on emergency communication equipment

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Hurricane Katrina not only destroyed hundreds of South Mississippi homes and business, the storm also knocked out most lines of communication. On Saturday, members of the Mississippi State Guard underwent training to make sure emergency officials keep in touch after natural disasters. It also gave the community a chance to better understand what the Guard does.

With a few minutes for set up, Mississippi State Guardsmen have the capability to talk to people around the world. One device they use is a PRC-47, a high frequency radio that guardsmen say can play a vital role after a natural disaster knocks down power lines and cell phone towers.

Major Donald King said, "Aside being able to talk to regular military personnel, it will also talk to any law enforcement. Any kind of emergency establishment as well as using the regular ham operators."

The training exercise was to make sure state guardsmen are ready to establish emergency communication at a moment's notice.

"We need our guys to be second nature with all of this," said Major King. "In the event of an emergency if anything goes down, they've got to be able to instantly react and have everything set up. So what this drill is about is getting them familiarized with all our equipment."

Although their mission is to help during any Mississippi disaster, State Guard members say most people don't seem to know much about them.

Col. Michael Townsend said, "We want people to know about us. Know that we are ready and willing and able and going to be there for them as Mississippians to help them."

The State Guard says it's hoping for more volunteers who want to serve and do it close to home.

"They have the opportunity to help out their state and not be deployed overseas. If they just want to stay locally, the Mississippi State Guard gives them that opportunity," said Sgt. Steve Solomon.

The Mississippi State Guard is under the command of the governor and only operates within the state. Any Mississippi resident age 17 to 64 can join.