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Army Holds Hurricane Response Exercise

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2006 – Incorporating the lessons learned from last year's devastating hurricane season, the Army held a hurricane response exercise here yesterday.

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Army Col. Kenneth Madden goes over instructions during a hurricane response exercise in the Wells Field House at Fort Belvoir, Va., June 28. The Exercise was hosted by the Army Operations Center. Photo by Steven Donald Smith
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"We're practicing and rehearsing what task each command would have to execute as they go through their operational mission," said Army Col. Kenneth Madden, the Army officer in charge of the exercise.

The exercise was held in the Wells Field House here, and was hosted by the Army Operations Center.

Participants included various Army commands, the National Guard Bureau, U.S. Northern Command, the Joint Director of Military Support and the Defense Logistics Agency. A Federal Emergency Management Agency representative also was present.

The exercise highlighted where Army resources, such as personnel and equipment, are located and how to coordinate these resources to better respond to a hurricane. Streamlining the response process will enhance the mission capability, Army officials said.

"Basically, we are working to simplify the process so that we can streamline some of our efforts differently than pre-Hurricane Katrina," said Edwin Murphy, a Defense Logistics Agency action officer.

The DLA responsibility is to support FEMA in the areas of homeland defense and natural disaster response. The agency examines what the response requirements are, such as food, water and tents, and how to get these resources to the people who need them.

The exercise included a giant floor map that showed where all the Army resources are located.

"The map is like big chess board," said Army Lt. Col. Anthony Dellabersano, an Army Corp of Engineers watch officer. "It allows us to position assets on the ground and to see what's in play. What we're trying to do here is put in place what reactions the Army needs to have in response to a Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricane."

Dellabersano explained that the Army plays a backup role to the states' National Guard units in responding to domestic disasters. If FEMA determines they need additional help, they will look to regular Army.

Even though the conditions of each natural disaster differ, it is important to examine what went wrong with the previous disaster response to prepare for the next, Sherry Wainwright, a FEMA assessment analyst, said.

"We had to come up better ways to do things," Wainwright said. "We've been looking at a lot of processes, and I think we're better prepared."

She said FEMA is much more forward-leaning than it has been in the past. For instance, as soon a storm pops up on the radar screen, FEMA begins notifying the public, "so everyone starts to think preparedness."

The Army is also more prepared than in years past. The Army has pre-positioned assistance elements and personnel so that if they are asked to respond, they are ready.

Madden said the biggest area the Army has improved on since last year is its communication capability, both technological and human. Exercises like the one yesterday help put faces to names, he said.

"We had to figure out what communications packages we had to push forward," he said. "If the balloon goes up, they'll know where to go to get the information that's required."

Before active duty troops can operate domestically, the president must declare a state of emergency and authorize their use under Title 10 of the U.S. Code.

"What we've done here today is look at what we need to do if Title 10 is authorized," Madden said.

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Fort Belvoir, Va.

Click photo for screen-resolution imageA map shows various Army resources that might be used to respond to a hurricane. The map was used during an Army hurricane response exercise at Wells Field House at Fort Belvoir, Va., June 28. Photo by Steven Donald Smith  
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