Exercise Tests Hurricane-Response Plans in Northeastern U.S.
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 30, 2007 National Guard members today commenced a hurricane emergency preparedness and response exercise involving five states in the northeastern United States, a National Guard Bureau spokesman said.
Code-named HURREX, the 11-day, command-post exercise involves Guard members from Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York, National Guard spokesman Emanuel Pacheco told American Forces Press Service today. The exercise, he said, is part of the larger Operation Ardent Sentry-Northern Edge 2007, which also starts today.
“This exercise is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of the National Guard as the first military responder to any state crisis,” Pacheco said.
A major focus of Ardent Sentry-Northern Edge 2007 is to test crisis-response coordination between federally controlled military forces and National Guard units, which come under the command of state governors, Peter F. Verga, acting assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense, said during an April 25 interview.
HURREX also tests Guard units’ interaction and coordination capabilities with federal disaster-management organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Air National Guard Maj. Philip Nizoloski said today during a phone interview from Quonset State Airport, R.I. Operation Vigilant Guard is the Guard’s contribution to the Ardent Sentry and HURREX exercises, he said.
The exercise scenario involves a fictitious Category 3 storm, “Hurricane Yvette,” hitting Newport, R.I., Nizoloski said. The tabletop exercise will gauge the effectiveness of state, local and federal agencies’ planning and coordinated response to such a catastrophe, he said.
“We’re training the command staff and subordinate leaders basically to successfully plan, coordinate and synchronize (disaster relief) efforts during an emergency,” Nizoloski explained. HURREX is slated to end May 10.
The hurricane season begins June 1, Nizoloski said, noting the National Guard and its partners are “doing everything we can to prepare.”
This year’s Ardent Sentry-Northern Edge exercise is the biggest yet, Verga pointed out. The hurricane scenario is one among 15 during the overall exercise, he said, which also includes a nuclear-weapon-explosion scenario involving the deployment of more than 2,000 active-duty troops and almost 1,000 Guard members to Camp Atterbury and the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Indiana.
The Indiana portion of the exercise will test emergency-response capabilities involving the fictitious detonation of a 10-kiloton nuclear device in an urban area, Verga said.
“National Guard soldiers … will always be the first military forces to respond to an emergency because of their proximity, (and) will then be reinforced by the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosives consequence-management response force in the active-duty force,” Verga explained.
The Indiana sites provide “a very realistic environment that’ll allow the soldiers to operate in an urban environment and see how they’ll have to respond to that kind of emergency,” Verga said.
Another scenario held off the Alaskan coast will feature a maritime situation, he said.
“There will be a ship with a ‘suspicious cargo’ that’s going to need to be intercepted,” Verga said. The Canadian navy will participate in that scenario and some other simulated incidents during the two-weeklong exercise, he added.
An air-defense exercise will feature Canadian military participation as well, Verga said. Canada’s armed forces partner with the North American Aerospace Defense Command in the defense of North America.
Fighting the global war against terrorism is the U.S. military’s main mission, but being ready to respond to potential homeland contingencies also is important, Verga said. “We also have to be prepared, at all times, to respond to an emergency at home,” he said.
The exercise, directed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is slated to end May 18. It is co-sponsored by U.S. Northern Command and also includes participation by the U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command and the Department of Homeland Security.