NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Members of the Rhode Island General Assembly toured The RI National Guard base in Quonset Tuesday morning to learn more about the organizations responsibilities, capabilities and how they provided support and services during the pandemic.
“We try to do a tour for every new administration,” said Public Affairs Officer Capt. Mark Incze. “As we were scheduling one for the governor and lieutenant governor it occurred to us that the national assembly hadn’t been here in a while. We wanted them to learn about what we do from us.”
During the pandemic the National Guard’s efforts could be seen across the state at testing sites and vaccination centers. The RI National guard also supported one of the nation’s first drive-thru testing sites.
“I don’t wanna say for sure that we were first,” said Capt. Incze, “but we were very early in that response. I know our 13th CSD was the very first National Guard response involved with COVID, period, nation-wide.”
Providing the delegates with a baseline familiarity of the National Guard was the goal of this tour, Capt. Incze said. A goal that seemed most successful when it came to highlighting the domestic support capabilities of the National Guard.
“The combination of the local focus of their service combined with the international,” Senator Bridget Valverde. “It’s amazing that their personnel are able to pivot so seamlessly to meet the different needs.”
Delegates were given a tour of a C130-J military transport aircraft. They were given the chance to sit in the pilot’s seat while learning a brief history of the craft and the types of missions it is most often used on. They were shown improvements that have been made to the aircraft including heads-up displays that provide a variety of flight information and allow for a reduced crew size by removing the need for a flight engineer or navigator.
“I’ve never had the opportunity to see this before,” said Senator Ana Quezada. “It’s a lot of information that we got. I had no idea how this worked. They said what a good job RI is doing. We always see RI in the back. We hear we’re the last at this or that but today at least we hear how good we are.”
After a brief tour of the actual aircraft the delegates had the chance to experience a limited version of flying one of these aircraft by hopping in the co-pilot’s seat of a flight simulator costing approximately $28 million. Capable of simulating almost any possible scenario pilots may encounter, including combat encounters, the simulator is fully certified by both the Airforce and the FAA and provided a scenic view of Jamestown as delegates were led through the process of landing the large aircraft.
The tour ended with a look at the National Guard’s technological work from telecommunications to cyber security. Staff Sgt. Fravien displayed a combat communications satellite capable of being deployed in a little as 30 minutes and can help provide connectivity for thousands in areas where conflicts and natural disasters have made communication impossible.
“If there was only a single takeaway,” said Capt. Incze, “It is letting people know the kind of domestic support capabilities the RI National Guard has to offer. I would hope that that would give people confidence, knowing that we’re here and we’re always prepared for those civil support kind of missions.”