News: 377th EECP Completes Phase 1 of ‘Hurricane Mark’
Story by Spc. Charles Thompson
NEW ORLEANS - Soldiers of the 377th Theater Sustainment Command’s Early Entry Command Post (EECP) team conducted phase one of an exercise on NAS JRB New Orleans, Jan. 12 to 13. The training will prepare them to deploy when disaster strikes in their area of operations. As part of their dual mission, the unit provides support operations for the U.S. Southern Command, which includes Central and South America.
The scenario is Hurricane Mark, a category 5 storm, that has just devastated the Central American country of Guatemala. The 377th TSC has deployed an EECP to the area to assist in relief efforts.
The unit has spent the past 3 months preparing for this exercise and is ready to see the results this training brings.
“This is an unfolding scenario that began in October that is going to run until the end of April”, said Col. Joel Weeks, 377th TSC Assistant Chief of Staff of Operations. “For a long time we did not have any battle staff training, so our ability to synchronize, integrate, coordinate and disseminate information as a collective battle staff had been left to atrophy somewhat, so the intent with this training is to take baby steps.”
Leaders are gearing phase 1 of the mission toward developing reporting and coordination lines of communication with the Main Command Post (MCP).
“Our intent is to be able to have the EECP able to deploy within 96 hours of getting notification,” said Col. Theresa Baginski who heads support operations for the command. “This weekend we are in Guatemala in the EECP and the MCP here in Belle Chasse, so we are going through the process of developing our reporting and coordination lines with the MCP.”
In January of 2010, an earthquake in Haiti killed more than 200, 000 people and affected more than 3 million. The U.S. government and the Department of Defense launched Operation Unified Response in which the 377th TSC provided logistical support to the operation.
“We are using the Haiti mission strongly as a reference point identifying what went right and what went wrong,” said Baginski. “We can learn from that disaster so that we get the right personnel and equipment packages ready for the next.”
When the earthquake struck Haiti, the 377th sent an EECP consisting of 20 soldiers within 96 hours.
The Commanding General of the 377th TSC at the time, Maj. Gen. Luis Visot felt strongly about further developing the EECP.
“We were asked to provide logistical support, but it took us close to 30 days [for the full headquarters] to respond”, said Visot. “In order for us to be more responsive, relevant, and credible I felt very strongly that it was critical for us to be able to develop, establish, and maintain an early entry command post.”
Since then the 377th TSC has received new equipment including mobile command tents that allow the EECP to set up quickly and effectively communicate with the MCP.
The exercise also allowed soldiers to train with new software developed by the 75th Training Division called Distributed Simulations Capability enabling troops to train as they would deploy.
“This software is allowing the MCP and the EECP to train using a communications systems that would be similar to the one they would use in a real mission,” said Gary Hoffmann, a Department of Defense contractor with the 75th TD. “It allows remote access and can be used by several units in different locations at the same time.”
Phase two of Hurricane Mark will take place in April.
“Between now and the April battle assembly we will be working on publishing an operations order,” said Weeks. “Part of the staff’s responsibilities is to know what the mission set is to help the Joint Task Force commander build that sustainment capability in theater.”
According to Weeks, a foreign humanitarian disaster relief effort is one of the most difficult things from a sustainment prospective you can do in the DoD.
“The mission is to support the local population affected by the disaster,” said Weeks. “As a supporting unit we have to be resource neutral or resource positive. We have to bring enough capability to sustain ourselves and make sure that we are there to support them.”
With phase one of the exercise complete, preparations will begin for phase two.
“I am exited to be a part of this. We are making sure we have a personnel package that is ready to hit the ground, that knows how to link into all our partners, so that we can support U.S. forces, and any other missions that we are given,” said Baginski.