Operation Stable Mercury Provides Opportunity to test many forms of Emergency Communications.

Sep 9th, 2017 | By | Category: Alerts

Operation Stable Mercury was held September 7th and 8th at Camp Dodge in Johnston Iowa.  This event has been offered on a yearly basis for several years.  With a goal of bringing communication assets from across the community and state, it offers an opportunity for various entities to test and stress their radio equipment and operators.

The two-day event started with the premise of an EF-4 tornado that cut a ¾ mile swath across the greater Des Moines area.  The event was given 5 distinct Incident Command ICP posts which then worked thru an Area Command Post ACP.  For exercise purposes, the ACP was positioned on Camp Dodge proper and the 5 ICP were positioned in the training area north of Camp Dodge.  Each was ¼ to a ½ mile from each other and a mile or so from the ACP.

Each ICP had different communication responsibilities unique to the needs of the ICP.  Some of the unique communication assets included an Iowa State Wide Interoperability Communications trailer STR.  The US Coast Guard Auxiliary had their trailer with many HF abilities.  Jasper county provided their Emergency Command Post.  The Iowa Air National Guard brought their Mobile Emergency Operations Center MEOC.  Story County ARES provided another area with HF abilities.  The 71st Support Team brought their WMD communications truck.  Satellite uplinks were common in the field.  The local MARS group communicated thru MARS links.

All of the 5 ICPs were supported by the ACP which was supported by 671st Troop Command.  This meant that the Area Command area had air-conditioned tents and meeting facilities.  Their unit provided military communications and monitoring of the event and safety issues that could arise.  Couple this with the Army National Guard wing from Boone providing Blackhawk helicopters for video monitoring and aerial repeaters allowed for a very active event scenario.  Polk County ARES provided a direct link from the ACP to all 5 ICPs.  Messages where passed and problems solved in real time. Many variations in link paths were used, including repeaters both analog and digital as well as simplex.

A bonus was the ability to coordinate communications with a similar exercise in Joplin Missouri.  We had compliments from a representative from FEMA Region 7.

The exercise coordinator Col (ret) Rob Hedgepeth complimented the professionalism of all the participants.  He is most grateful that the Amateur radio community donates their time to integrate with many of the served agencies during time of need.