News: Exercise United Response tests California National Guard in full scale Dual Status Command exercise
SACRAMENTO, Calif.—You sense your balance is off. You’ve felt it before, but it always catches you by surprise. It’s not your body that’s doing the shaking, but the ground beneath your feet. All you can do is drop, cover and hold on and hope it passes quickly. In the worse case scenarios the Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen of the California National Guard know this is their moment to put on the uniform and go to the aid of those in need. This is one reason why the National Guard exists.
The California National Guard tested their responsiveness to a “no-notice” simulated disaster—a 7.8-magnitude earthquake centered in El Cajon Pass in Southern California, during Exercise United Response 2011 at the California Military Department in Sacramento, Calif., Oct. 21-27.
This exercise, which tested the construct of a National Guard Dual Status Commander with both Title 32 and Title 10 authority, is the first large scale test of the DSC model in the Golden State. The California National Guard pioneered the way by joining Wisconsin as the only other National Guard organization to even test the DSC model concept through a full scale natural disaster simulation.
“The National Guard has always stood ready in California to protect its citizens and provide military forces to civilian responders,” said Col. Robert Spano, California National Guard Director of the Joint Staff, who also served as the Dual Status Commander, directing both Title 32 National Guard and Title 10 active duty forces in support of the governor of California and state civilian authorities, in their response to the simulated disaster. “But now our capability has increased with this construct (DSC) so we’ll be able to respond faster.”
In the past, National Guard and active duty forces have served separate chains of command, ending with either the governor or the president. The inefficiency of that division became most apparent during the gaps and delays in responding to Hurricane Katrina.
“By blending both Title 32 National Guard and Title 10 active duty Army, Army Reserve, Air Force, Navy and Marine forces under one Dual Status Commander, we’ve achieved cohesion of command and efficiencies in the military response to a state emergency,” said Spano.
In order to be able to lead both forces, a DSC must be nominated by the governor and appointed by the Secretary of Defense.
The U.S. Northern Command began training leaders in the National Guard last year to command both Title 32 and Title 10 forces so they can call on each other’s capabilities to swiftly send relief to where it’s needed most.
Dual Status Commanders have been implemented before, typically for planned events such as international summits of domestic and foreign leaders and diplomats. However, this year’s Hurricane Irene was the first time a DSC was appointed during an actual natural disaster.
“The model and the training we’re conducting in this exercise have really brought forth attention to how this [plan] can successfully work,” said Spano. “Basically we’re creating a model that not only will be good for the entire National Guard, but will also be very beneficial for U.S. Northern Command.”
A DSC must receive specialized training at U.S. Northern Command headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colo. In addition, a DSC must be granted federal authority governing the use of armed forces on U.S. soil.
During Exercise United Response 2011, the stage was set to build the DSC structure from the ground up and follow it to a strong foundation of a proper military response, support and recovery after a major disaster. With major highways, railway operations and utilities across Southern California affected, the mock quake called for the notional activation of the entire 22,000 California National Guard force and mobilization of approximately 8,000 California National Guard Soldiers and Airmen to the affected area and an additional 10,000 civilian emergency-response personnel from within California and other states.
The initial response to a civil emergency had the California National Guard and civilian responders working together to save lives. At the same time, basic human needs for water and food created shortages, leading to civil disturbance and forces having to secure the L.A. region, said Spano.
To add to the realism agencies actually involved in the training included U.S. Northern Command, California Department of Water Resources and the California Emergency Management Agency.
As the week of training drew to an end and all the game pieces analyzed there was a lot to take in. Ultimately the planners and the leaders were looking at what areas still need fixing, but praised the benefits of the California National Guard leading the way in preparation for a possible catastrophic event.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” said Spano during an after-action review meeting. “The main thing we’ve achieved is we’ve taken capabilities from both National Guard and Title 10 forces, and assessed those strengths and weaknesses so that should we be called into a Dual Status Command during an actual emergency, we’ll have already worked through this and smoothed over a lot of the challenges.”
Lt. Col. Stanley Zezotarski, J5/J7 Branch Chief and Directorate at the California Military Department, and the exercise director for Exercise United Response, felt his organizations proactive stance could blaze the trail for other states in minimizing the loss of life after uncontrollable natural disasters.
“We will be ready for a state emergency by establishing a system [of a Dual Status Commander] that we can continually train and improve for future generations of the National Guard,” Zezotarski said.
“We are the people’s National Guard,” said Lt. Col. Anthony Noll, deputy joint operations officer at the California Military Department, and joint operations evaluator in the exercise. “We are always moving forward, always getting better to make sure we’re there and ready to support our citizens.”
With more than 200 fault lines in California and a 63 percent chance that a large earthquake (magnitude 6.7 or greater) will occur between now and 2036 in the Bay Area, according to the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory, the importance of this exercise was emphasized by the adjutant general of the California National Guard.
“This is what we do. Our number one priority is to support our state civil authorities and the Governor. This exercise validated our capability to do just that. My confidence in our abilities to perform the DSCA (Defense Support to Civilian Authorities) mission and this Dual Status Commander construct to command active duty and reserve Title 10 forces in response to a large-scale emergency is high. The citizens of California can be rest assured that should we face a disaster unlike anyone has ever seen, the California National Guard, in partnership with our active duty and reserve counterparts from across the state and nation, are ready to respond,” said Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin.