Weekend Warriors

Members of the Florida Army National Guard were in Marianna this weekend testing out some new equipment that could help us in the event of a hurricane or other natural disasters.

Soldiers from the 146th Expeditionary Signal Battalion were testing a new piece of signal equipment called the Regional Emergency Response Network.

The device allows the Guard to establish a communication link to a satellite and a standard radio frequency simultaneously.

The device can communicate to anyone in the world through internet or telephone. It runs on its own power and takes 20 minutes to start up once it arrives at a disaster site.

During the 3-day exercise, the unit practiced establishing a communication link from Live Oak, to Marianna.

Sergeant Timothy Bradberry says the device will help in communication with E-M-S and police during disasters. "On the battlefield in Iraq but also in support for disaster situations like, Katrina if we went in where there’s no infrastructure left because of a disaster, we’ll provide communications without any support from local sources.”

The National Guard may be trained to handle an emergency, but do they have the manpower and equipment necessary to respond? A recent government report shows major equipment shortages for Guard units in all 50 states.

The shortages compound a problem the Guard was already facing a lack of manpower. With more than fifty thousand guard troops now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, the guard is stretched thin.

The report warned that Guard units are not prepared to handle major natural disasters or terrorist attacks because of equipment shortages.

Over the next five years, the army plans to spend $21 billion dollars to increase Guard equipment.