ATAK’s use in the hurricanes got some good coverage, because it had civilian users from around the area working with State and Local users. Here’s an article from the 24th Special Operations Wing Special Tactics News.
“We hit the ground running, and immediately had to begin adapting,” said the mission commander.
One of those adaptions was quickly learning how to leverage the power of social media.
In the Special Tactics operation center, the Special Tactics team utilizes the Android Tactical Assault Kit (ATAK) system, which is generally used to battle track forces during military missions. Intelligence analysts working remotely from Kentucky, Ohio and Florida, screen information found on social media platforms and smartphone applications and use their expertise to connect potential rescues with Special Tactics capabilities.
For instance, individuals in distress can update a phone application with their locationand the situations they find themselves in. The intelligence team screens the information, applies a confidence level and sends the information to Special Tactics operators, real time, in the field.
“The area we’re working in is completely inundated with hundreds, if not thousands, of requests for rescue,” said Tech. Sgt. Brian Davis, intelligence analyst with the 123rd STS. “Since we’re such a small team with a specialized skill set, we find the people who are most in need and look for people who need specialized rescue.”
Davis recalled a certain post where an elderly couple was trapped in an attic due to flooding, which required the Special Tactics team to utilize confined space rescue techniques.
In addition to personnel recovery mission sets, the Airmen in the field are being tasked with exercising command and control by opening and coordinating helicopter landing zones for supplies and medical evacuations, said the mission commander.
As Hurricane Harvey began to dissolve and make landfall for its second time on Wednesday as a tropical storm, the Special Tactics teams redeployed east to where the storm expected to make landfall.
While the convoy drove, the intelligence team utilized live traffic cameras, monitored the Texas Department of Travel website for flooded, underwater or impassable roads to make adjustments along their route of travel to reach their target.
“The team is currently right in the thick of the Port Arthur-Beaumont disaster areas, talking to circling Coast Guard and Air Force reconnaissance aircraft to get updates on the big picture,” the mission commander said. “When we hit the ground, we went outside the box, started problem solving and realized we have all these different tools at our disposal to be more effective.”