ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. — The base is continuing its tradition of partnering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, serving as the staging area for manufactured housing units destined for residents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
The FEMA mission assigned the Department of Defense to provide a staging area for the homes included in federal response and recovery efforts related to severe storms and flooding that impacted the livability of homes on the reservation.
"FEMA will be storing the housing units on a vast concrete area once used as an alert parking apron for numerous B-52 (Stratofortress) bombers during the Cold War when that mission existed on base," said Dana Powell, the 28th Bomb Wing plans and programs chief. "The area is no longer utilized for that, so it is the perfect location to store the units before they are transported to their final destination."
Powell added the support the base is providing to FEMA will have very little impact on the daily operations at the base or its mission.
"We are simply hosting FEMA personnel and providing a safe and secure staging area where they can execute their mission," he said.
The first two housing units arrived on base Oct. 8. Units will continue to arrive at Ellsworth Air Force Base from FEMA storage facilities in Selma, Alabama, and Cumberland, Maryland, through the fall, according to Brian Hvinden, the FEMA external affairs officer.
Hvinden added that the location’s proximity to the reservation and the strong relationship the agency has with the base makes it easier for staff to conduct their operations and focus on the tasks at hand.
Ellsworth has provided similar support for FEMA operations in the past. In 2011 the base served as a staging area for FEMA tractor trailers loaded with relief supplies as well as office space for FEMA staff as part of the federal response to flooding in South Dakota and surrounding states. In 2013 the base provided office space and support for a FEMA joint field office that conducted operations as part of the federal response for 14 counties and two tribes in the region impacted by a winter storm.