184th Intelligence Wing activates UPAD to support Nebraska flood relief efforts

By Master Sgt. Matt McCoy
184th Public Affairs

The 184th Intelligence Wing, Kansas Air National Guard, activated seven Airmen March 23 to provide stateside emergency assistance to Nebraska for flooding response.

The recent bomb cyclone – technically called explosive cyclogenesis — that swept through the Midwest caused more than $1 billion of flood damage to Nebraska’s Missouri River Basin and three-fourths of its 93 counties, prompting Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts to initiate emergency actions.

Tech. Sgt. Clint Brown (left) and Staff Sgt. Bryan Heilman (right) use aerial footage to create information products for civilian authorities in Nebraska. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt McCoy)

As part of the emergency response, civilian authorities submitted a request for an Air National Guard Unclassified Processing Analysis and Dissemination team, or UPAD, to provide geospatial imagery support.

Because readiness and domestic operations are top priorities in the 184th IW, the UPAD was activated shortly after the call came in.

“The UPAD is used to… help an affected state with its overflow workload,” said Master Sgt. John Gray, noncommissioned officer in charge of the UPAD. “We answer questions that a civilian incident commander may have so they can make decisions.”

The UPAD uses aerial footage from civilian planes and satellites to create and distribute visuals for incident commanders. These include videos and before-and-after images with descriptions and graphics that highlight areas of concern, critical structures, and landmarks.

“We find out about dams that may be damaged or starting to leak, or levees that are starting to overflow,” said Gray.

The purpose of the UPAD is not to make decisions or provide guidance, but rather, to provide timely information to the right people so they can make well-informed, life-saving decisions.

“The biggest priority at this point, letting them know about the lines of communications,” said Gray.

Lines of communication is a term used to describe ways in and out of certain locations, which are especially vital for emergency crews. These include open roads, helicopter landing sites, runways and points of distribution for supplies, people and equipment.

At the time of the activation, the Nebraska emergency had transitioned from a search and rescue stage to a recovery stage.

“During the recovery stage, we’re doing a lot of pre- and post imagery that can be provided to them so they can decide where to focus their efforts,” said Gray. “Right now, they have a list of 90 points of interests that they have specific questions for. Our goal is to get the priority ones and priority twos answered [immediately].”

Most of the Airmen serve as Air National Guard intelligence analysts, which aligns with the needs of the UPAD. Other Airmen serve as information technology specialists who maintain and operate communications equipment.

“Without our IT people here to support us, we’re dead in the water,” said Gray. “If something broke, without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing.”

For the UPAD members, taking care of their neighbors is the reason why they volunteer to help.

“It’s actually one of the most gratifying things we do out here at the 184th,” said Gray. “You can ask anyone who does this; being able to help people within the continental United States, it’s gratifying.”

The 184th Intelligence Wing, Kansas Air National Guard, activates seven Airmen to provide stateside emergency assistance to Nebraska, March 23, in response to floods caused by a “bomb cyclone” that swept through the Midwest. The Unclassified Processing Analysis and Dissemination team assigned to the 184th IW provided timely, informative products to incident commanders so they could make well-informed, life-saving decisions. Staff Sgt. Robert Hollar (right), IT specialist, maintains and updates the computer systems that the UPAD relies on to provide critical information. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt McCoy)

Tech. Sgt. Clint Brown (left) and Staff Sgt. Bryan Heilman (right) use aerial footage to create information products for civilian authorities in Nebraska. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt McCoy

Staff Sgt. Ryan Sparkman (left) views imagery of the Missouri River Basin for information that may benefit emergency crews in the effected areas of Nebraska. The Unclassified Prcocessing Analysis and Dissemination team assigned to the 184th IW provided timely, informative products to incident commanders so they could make well-informed, life-saving decisions. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt McCoy

Master Sgt. John Gray, non-commissioned officer in charge of the Unclassified Processing Analysis Dissemination team, 184th Intelligence Wing, Kansas Air National Guard, uses network platforms to distribute products requested by civilian authorities in Nebraska in response to the region’s flooding. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt McCoy)