Northern Command Sends Coordinating Cell to Texas for Storm Response
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 22, 2008 U.S. Northern Command has deployed a defense coordination unit to the Joint Operations Center in Austin, Texas, in anticipation of the landfall of Tropical Storm Dolly in southern Texas.
As of 3 p.m. EDT today, the storm packed sustained winds of 70 mph, and meteorologists expect it to attain hurricane status before it makes landfall tomorrow.
The 12-man NorthCom cell deployed yesterday from Denton, Texas, and is coordinating with federal, state and local officials. The cell is collocated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s regional office.
Civilian agencies are the lead elements. If the civilian agencies need help from the military, the NorthCom cell is on scene to speed that assistance. “We only work in support of civilian agencies,” said Army Col. Laverm “Bullett” Young, commander of the cell and the defense coordinating officer.
The cell also has been working with the U.S. defense attaché in Mexico to cooperate with the Mexican armed services. Dolly is forecast to hit north of Brownsville, Texas, but northeastern Mexico also will experience hurricane or tropical storm winds. “There will be a lot of aircraft flying down there doing search and rescue, if the need arises, and we’ve been talking in advance of that,” Young said.
Forecasters expect between 10 and 20 inches of rain from the storm. “We anticipate flooding will be the biggest problem, but we’re preparing for any contingency,” Young said.
Fort Sam Houston, Texas, has been designated as a staging area for supplies for the area if needed. Texas has not asked for any aid from the military yet. About 1,200 members of the Texas National Guard have been called to state active duty, and state officials are keeping in close touch with affected communities and with federal and nongovernmental agencies.
The defense coordinating cell normally reports to the U.S. Army North. When called up like this, the cell reports directly to the commander of U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, Colo.
This is not the first time the team has deployed. They worked on coordinating efforts for Hurricane Dean last year and for the series of tornadoes that decimated the community of Eagle Pass, Texas, in April 2007. In addition to Texas, the unit provides support to Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico and Arizona.