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Multinational Students Study Civil Security at Marshall Center

American Forces Press Service

GARMISCH, Germany, July 31, 2008 – The George C. Marshall European Center, a German-American defense and security studies institute here, graduated the first class of its new course on trans-Atlantic civil security yesterday.

The course takes an all-hazards approach to civil security as it looks at how nations can prevent, prepare for and manage pandemic disease, natural disasters and industrial accidents as well as terrorist attacks, Marshall Center officials said. Forty-two military and civilian emergency management officials from 25 countries completed the new three-week course.

"For years, many nations lacked a formal framework for the concept of civil security," Peter Verga, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and Americas security affairs, said at the graduation ceremony. "The increased threat of terrorism and regularly occurring natural disasters in the U.S. and around the world have given a renewed sense of urgency to this topic."

Efforts to fight the wildfires burning in California this month as the first participants attended the course give a vivid example of the civil-military cooperation and international cooperation necessary to deal with catastrophic events, Verga noted.

The Defense Department provided eight aircraft with firefighting capabilities, 12 helicopters and about 3,000 National Guardsmen to combat the fires, Verga said, and more than 25,000 firefighters from 41 states and Canada, Greece, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico joined the effort.

"[It is] a historic effort not only in magnitude, but also in terms of international support to the United States during wildfires," Verga said.

With each country approaching civil security differently, emergency management officials need to be able to understand the perspectives of their international partners, said Marine Lt. Col. Kevin Killea, who coordinates Defense Department resources that can be provided to civil authorities in a crisis.

"It can't be an instance where the loudest voice in the room wins, because that is not the integration that you are looking for,” he said. “That will not facilitate the partnership needed during a catastrophe."

Forums such as the new course are critical to making such international cooperation possible, course participants said.

"In my country, for example, we have a different approach to crisis management and consequence management. We have a different perception about these things, and also about how to implement and manage these issues," said Lt. Rafig Gurbanzada, chief officer of the International Activities Department of Azerbaijan's Ministry of Emergency Situations. "But I came here to learn about Western perspectives, to hear from Western scholars and what they think about specific issues. It was very useful for me."

Course director John L. Clarke said he has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants in the inaugural class, but expects to make changes for the second class based on their suggestions.

"We want to focus the course even more on some of the key mission areas of the civil security concept and the lessons learned from specific case studies," Clarke said. "We have already received a lot of input from our course participants on case studies that they think we ought to consider for future iterations of the program."

The second class will take place in February. The new course is one of five resident courses offered by the Marshall Center. Since the center's dedication in 1993, more than 6,100 military and civilian officials from more than 100 nations have graduated from resident courses.

(From a George C. Marshall European Center news release.)

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