Hawaii's Defense Coordinating Element Pays Visit to American Samoa

By JTF-HD Public Affairs

American Samoa – Members of Joint Task Force Homeland Defense (JTF-HD) and the U.S. Army Pacific's (USARPAC) Defense Coordinating Element (DCE) paid a visit to American Samoa recently in order to confirm readiness for all major communication systems tied to disaster relief missions. The exercise, Defense Coordinating Element – American Samoa Interagency Coordination Engagement and Communication Exercise, ran June 27-30.

"Our main focus was to make sure the people of American Samoa are prepared in the event of an emergency. Communication is a large part of that readiness," said Army Col. Curtis King, USARPAC Defense Coordinating Officer (DCO). "We traveled here to test all their communication systems and confirm connectivity," King added.

(Left) American Samoa Gov. Togiola Tulafono cuts the ribbon to officially commission ASPA's new Temporary Power Generation System (TPGS) at Satala. (Center) Army Maj. Samuel Taylor, Army Reserve Installation commander, discusses capabilities and shows mission essential facilities and equipment to the DCO and FEMA. (Right) Andra Samoa-Tafuna, Director of American Samoa Power Authority (ASAP), and staff brief Army Col. Curtis King, Defense Coordinating Officer.

A representative from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was also on hand to conduct interagency coordination engagements with key personnel from various federal and non-federal departments. "We want to identify with and become familiar with all the capabilities within their organization," said FEMA Pacific Area Office Logistical Management Specialist Michael Brockett.

During the visit Mr. Brockett and Mr. Michael Machado, JTF-HD Logistics Coordinator, teamed up with DCE members to conduct a site survey of some of the key infrastructure available and met with key personnel to identify and familiarize everyone with the capabilities of various federal and local departments and organizations. Mr. Machado is very familiar with the territory. He was deployed to American Samoa as part of the emergency relief effort in September of 2009.

(Left) DCE members SFC Collazo and SSG Utu conduct communication tests. (Right) Pago Pago Harbor– the major port that receives most of American Samoa's essential commodities.

"We are here this time to conduct site assessments and we have directed our attention towards focusing on the communication aspects of their disaster relief capabilities," said Machado. "The assessment will include their current systems and devices," he added.

While assessing the communication piece the team, in conjunction with FEMA, is focusing on the lessons learned during the 2009 disaster. "The focus of my efforts was to gain critical information so that we may enhance our ability to respond and support American Samoa should they experience another disaster," said Machado.

The group also visited the Army Reserve Center to discuss critical resource relocation and staging; the American Samoa Power Authority to review capabilities and emergency resource scenarios; the Airport and Seaport Authority to discuss capabilities and major disaster response plans; the Territorial Emergency Coordinating Office to discuss capabilities and functions; the Lyndon Baines Johnson Medical Center to review capabilities dealing with mass care and emergency resources; and a trip to Governor Togiola Tulafono's office, the Governor of American Samoa.

Headquartered at Fort Shafer, Hawaii, JTF-HD's mission is to execute domestic Land Domain operations, in close coordination, with civil authorities, to defeat terrorist threats to the U.S. Homeland (defined as the U.S. States and Territories, Possessions, Commonwealths; and Compact Nations in the Pacific), and when requested/validated, to conduct civil support [Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) or Foreign Humanitarian Assistance (FHA)] operations for all hazards including responding to, and recovering from, natural or man-made disasters across the Pacific.