NEWS

Hawaii based DCOs and JTF-HD
join FEMA during Guam, CNMI activities

By JTF-HD Public Affairs


GUAM and CNMI – Members of Hawaii's Defense Coordinating Element (DCE) visited Guam and the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) recently to participate in exercise Joint Marianas Rumble 2011 and to develop a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) emergency response and disaster relief exercise program. The FEMA and DCE visit occurred in August while the exercise took place in early September.

The event, a Joint Region Marianas disaster preparedness earthquake and tsunami exercise, featured a scenario that included a 9.5 magnitude earthquake that struck 50 miles off the coast of Guam. The DCE works in conjunction with Joint Task Force Homeland Defense (JTF-HD) during potential natural or man-made disaster situations.

"This was another extremely productive visit," said Army Col. Curtis King, Defense Coordinating Officer (DCO). "It was a much needed and worthwhile exercise and I was very impressed with their operations and capabilities," added King.

"We have a number of exercises in place," said FEMA representative Mr. Larry Dove. "Our exercises enable entities to identify strengths and incorporate them within best practices to sustain and enhance existing capabilities. They also provide an objective assessment of gaps and shortfalls within plans, policies, and procedures to address areas for improvement prior to a real-world incident," said Dove.

 
(Left) Mr. Roy Tsutsui (right), Guam Defense Coordinating Officer (DCO) Representative for Joint Task Force Homeland Defense (JTF-HD) and Army Col. Marc Wilson (center), 9th MSC Reserve DCO discuss exercise Joint Marianas Rumble with exercise planning personnel prior to the start of the event. (Official U.S. Army photo) (Right) Mr. Roy Tsutsui (2nd from right), Guam Defense Coordinating Officer (DCO) Representative for Joint Task Force Homeland Defense (JTF-HD) and Army Col. Marc Wilson (center), 9th MSC Reserve DCO discuss exercise Joint Marianas Rumble with exercise planning personnel prior to the start of the event. (Official U.S. Army photo

FEMA exercises, coupled with the National Exercise Plan and the Homeland Security Exercise plan, help clarify roles and responsibilities among different entities, improve interagency coordination and communications, and identify needed resources and opportunities for improvement.

"During Joint Marianas Rumble 2011 the exercise planners basically "collapsed" one of the distribution center buildings, trapping and injuring a person inside the structure, and then created a hazardous material (HAZMAT) spill in the HAZMAT storage location," said Mr. Roy Tsutsui, Guam DCO. "Then we had a telephone pole fall on one of the units' five-ton tractors while damaging some material in their sub-safe area," Tsutsui said.

Military and various Government of Guam (GovGuam) agencies participated in the two-day training event, hosted by Joint Region Marianas (JRM), to test the response capabilities of a number of local and federal entities.

"The participant list was impressive," said King. "Representatives from the U.S. Naval Base Guam (NBG); Andersen Air Force Base (AFB); Commander, Submarine Squadron (CSS) 15; U.S. Naval Hospital (USNH) Guam; Navy Computer Telecommunications Station (NCTS); Guam High School (GHS); and Cmdr. McCool Elementary/Middle School (MEMS); Government of Guam; and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands were involved," added King.

The exercise, which took place in both Guam and Saipan, consisted of an earthquake warning, personnel accountability drills, personnel searches, simulated damages, medical distribution responses, spill team responses, and damage assessments. Observers were stationed at every drill site to evaluate and grade the procedures. "I believe the leadership here in Guam was pleased with the sense of urgency and accountability displayed by the people involved in the exercise," said Tsutsui.

The distribution center was also tasked with performing a proof of concept for an air Theater Consolidation and Shipping Point capability, displaying the ability to receive and deliver material directly from Andersen Air Force Base, about 30 miles north of Naval Base Guam, to customers in between the two bases. The event was successful.

 
(Left) Mr. Patrick Collins (center), Joint Task Force Homeland Defense (JTF-HD) exercise planner and Mr. Larry Dove (2nd from left) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) greet emergency operations personnel at the exercise Joint Marianas Rumble operations briefing prior to the start of the event. (Official U.S. Army photo) (Right) Mr. Patrick Collins (2nd from right), Joint Task Force Homeland Defense (JTF-HD) exercise planner and Army Col. Scott Lyman (left) Defense Coordinating Officer (DCO), U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) are busy planning the exercise Joint Marianas Rumble prior to the start of the event. (Official U.S. Army photo)

"It's a new process that enables decreased customer wait time for day-to-day cargo, while also providing a secondary location or distribution point for distribution to support island customers, should the need arise," said King.

Exercise Marianas Rumble, an annual exercise designed to test response and recovery plans from a major natural disaster, ended with a table top exercise on the second day. The table top brought all island agencies together to talk about their plans in case of a tsunami, and to help develop and improve base emergency plans. "It is important to exercise their emergency response teams in a variety of locations and under varied conditions to allow them to demonstrate [their] capabilities," Tsutsui said.

Following the two-day exercise, personnel from the Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) training unit, evaluated the response efforts of the emergency coordinators and participants. Because of the island's critical location in typhoon alley, coordination with local, federal and military agencies is essential to ensure the best precautions are taken in the event of a natural disaster.

Ten DCOs are appointed by and work for the Department of Defense (DoD) and are assigned to each FEMA region located on the mainland. Due to the distances involved in the Pacific Area of Operations, there is a DCO and DCE located on Oahu and they are assigned to the United Army Pacific (USARPAC). In addition there is a DCO representative on Guam. When requested and approved, the DCO serves as the DoD's single point of contact at the Joint Field Office (JFO). Often, requests for Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) originates at the JFO and are coordinated and processed through the DCO.

Headquartered at Fort Shafer, Hawaii, (JTF-HD) maintains situational awareness of all domains within the JTF-HD Joint Operations Area; executes mission command of assigned forces in the land domain to conduct Homeland Defense operations to deter and defeat threats to critical infrastructure and key resources and when requested/validated, conducts Civil Support operations in response to all hazards to mitigate human suffering and reduce infrastructure damage.