Joint Task Force Homeland Defense and 9th Mission Support Command Participate in Hawaii State Hurricane Exercise
By Staff Sgt. Angela M. Verna, 9th Mission Support Command and JTF-HD Public Affairs
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii – Army Reserve Soldiers from the 9th Mission Support Command (MSC) and Joint Task Force Homeland Defense (JTF-HD) began the hurricane season here, May 31, by participating in Hawaii's annual state hurricane preparedness exercise, Makani Pahili 2011.
Makani Pahili is a joint command post exercise that exercises coordination between federal, state and county agencies, along with first responders, hospital and health care associations and non-government and private volunteer organizations. The objective is to validate roles and responsibilities and develop the most effective disaster plan possible while also validating operational efforts as outlined in the Hawaii Catastrophic Disaster Response Plan.
JTF-HD, a U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) organization with headquarters on Fort Shafter, serves as the executive agent for military support to the exercise. On order, the 9th MSC provides contingency operations mission support to the joint task force.
At this year's Makani Pahili, Reservists from the 9th MSC assumed their positions within JTF-HD in response to a simulated category four hurricane impacting the Hawaiian Islands with winds of 131 to 155 mph. As state and local agency resources became overwhelmed in the scenario, Department of Defense assistance was requested to provide support to civilian authorities, as approved by the Secretary of Defense.
|Sgt. 1st Class Shaun Elton, 9th Mission Support Command (MSC) senior medical noncommissioned officer and Joint Task Force-Homeland Defense (JTF-HD) medical planner, coordinates with fellow JTF-HD members to respond to a simulated category four hurricane as part of the Hawaii state exercise Makani Pahili 2011. (Official U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Angela M. Verna, 9th Mission Support Command)|
The 9th MSC staff performed civil support operations by assisting with staff functions in addition to providing valuable civilian expertise such as logistics and transportation support, engineering and medical services. During the exercise, one scenario involved transporting equipment to the Big Island of Hawaii. The 9th MSC Soldiers from the Big Island were able to assist the joint team with local knowledge about less commonly known airfields in Waimea, Kohala and Upolu, in addition to the commonly known Hilo, Kona and Pohakuloa Training Area.
"Our Soldiers bring a unique capability to the joint team because most of them grew up here and have specific historical knowledge of our islands," said Lt. Col. Alan Ostermiller, 9th MSC current operations officer and JTF-HD chief of operations.
According to the 9th's commanding general, the Reservists performed exceptionally well. "This isn't too surprising given their focus on training and their real world experience from the March 11, 2011 tsunami that resulted from the earthquake in Japan," said Brig. Gen. Michele Compton, who is dual hatted as the JTF-HD deputy commanding general for operations. "Many of these same Soldiers were key players for the American Samoa tsunami recovery operations in 2009."
As a result of the command's success, the 9th MSC's abilities were validated at full operating capability, meaning the command met the required criteria and is prepared to augment the JTF-HD's critical mission in support of Pacific Command and civil authorities during the 2011 hurricane season.
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.