916th Boom Operator Provides Critical Crisis Communications During Hurricane

  • Published
  • By Jeramy Moore
  • 916th Air Refueling Wing

Senior Airman Alexander Mark, an in-flight refueling instructor with the 77th Air Refueling Squadron, and his wife, Tyler, provided critical communications capabilities for the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Greene County during a catastrophic weather event on Sept. 14, 2018.

“Our role in a crisis as representatives of the Neuse River Basin Amateur Radio Association (NRABA) is to provide a life-line in the event that the primary communications functions go down,” said Alexander Mark. “For Hurricane Florence, we camped out for five days in the EOC just in case our radio systems were needed.”

The Marks, who are both members of the NRBARA, arrived at the EOC two days before the storms landfall to set up the backup communications system.

“In the height of the storm we lost internet, land lines, cellphone service and primary radio systems which disabled the 911 call center in Greene County,” said Alexander Mark. “Using our amateur radio system, we were able to communicate with nearby counties to request the aid that allowed the 911 system to get back up.”

“Emergency operators use county radios, state radios and cell towers to respond to life or death situations, they are critical but, sometimes they go down,” said Berry Anderson, director of the Greene County emergency services office. “Without Alexander’s radio system in place, our emergency response efforts would have been severely affected.”

Before Alexander Mark became a Reserve Citizen Airman he served as a volunteer firefighter, which helped to familiarize him with emergency communications. Alexander Mark also credits his time in the Air Force with preparing him to properly communicate in an intense situation.

“My communications skills on the radio were developed primarily in the Air Force,” said Alexander Mark. “Because I am a boom operator and am constantly going back and forth on aircraft radios, I was able to better understand proper communications in that high-intensity event.”

“He was very well versed in EOC operations,” said Anderson. “They were both very well trained.”

Hurricane Florence battered eastern North Carolina when it made landfall in mid-September last year, with the damages estimating more than 38 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Disaster response efforts often need to be powered by motivated teams of people with diverse backgrounds and skills according to Anderson.

“It’s great that the Team Seymour family was able to work together in such a critical way and provide help to people that needed it,” Anderson said. “Alexander and his wife were both extremely knowledgeable and helpful with getting me valuable information during the storm. He is smart and I considered him a valuable asset to the emergency response effort.”