News: Exercise strengthens Nepal, US readiness, relationships
Story by 2nd Lt. Jeremy Alexander
CAMP COURTNEY, Japan - Marines and sailors with III Marine Expeditionary Force returned to Okinawa following the conclusion of the Nepal humanitarian assistance and disaster relief table-top exercise.
The purpose of the exercise, conducted Feb. 2-8, was to improve III MEF’s ability to respond to an HADR scenario in Nepal through coordination and planning with the government of Nepal, U.S. Departments of Defense and State, international and national agencies, and multinational parties.
“Recognizing the ongoing earthquake risk, we continue to emphasize preparation and enhance interoperability to build U.S. and Nepalese response capacity,” said Col. Gregory Winston, the defense attaché with the U.S. Embassy Kathmandu, Nepal.
Members of the National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal escorted Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen with III MEF, U.S. Army Pacific and Pacific Air Forces on a vulnerability tour and earthquake walk through Kathmandu Feb. 3.
The purpose of the tour was to help participants identify key earthquake vulnerabilities in Kathmandu and existing resources available in the event of a disaster and familiarize themselves with typical features of construction in the area.
Following the tour, exercise participants spent four days discussing, planning and preparing for an earthquake, altogether and in smaller groups based around functional areas and specialties. The final portion of the exercise saw participants use the knowledge gained and relationships built throughout the week to conduct a one-day earthquake simulation exercise.
This one-day simulation involved a variety of earthquake scenarios presented to the group. Participants discussed and presented resources they could provide based on the scenario and how they would plan and work together with other organizations to mitigate and solve the presented problem.
Lt. Gen. Nepal Chand, the chief of general staff of the Nepalese Army, and Peter Bodde, the U.S. ambassador to Nepal, attended presentations and the closing ceremony along with various government of Nepal and the Nepalese Army leaders.
“Coordination that is done now, in advance of an earthquake, will pay immeasurable dividends later in the form of time and lives saved,” said Bodde. “The relationships you forged this week will put us several steps ahead when an earthquake occurs. The plans and preparations you have discussed together on paper must be put into action.”
Following the closing ceremony, Col. John A. Ostrowski, the chief of staff for 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III MEF, and Chand exchanged gifts and participants from both sides attended a friendship event.
III MEF is scheduled to return to Nepal later in 2013 to participate in a field training exercise to further test and refine plans and practices discussed during the table-top exercise.
“The invaluable inputs you have contributed while discussing daily issues during the course of this exercise will certainly contribute to a better HADR response in your respective fields,” said Chand. “I sincerely thank you for your active participation during the exercise, which not only helped you to reach a common understanding, but helped you formulate recommendations, which are certain to aid in saving lives and mitigating human suffering during an earthquake.”