News: Chaplains discuss emergency response procedures, plans
Story by Pfc. David Hersey
CAMP FOSTER, Japan When one thinks of personnel who respond to emergencies or crises on Okinawa, they tend to picture Marines with the Provost Marshal’s Office or Navy medical personnel with U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa.
However, equally important to the physical well-being and security of those affected is their emotional state, requiring a different group of first-responders to train for emergencies.
Chaplains with III Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Installations Pacific and emergency management personnel with MCIPAC gathered Feb. 8 at the Camp Foster Chapel to refresh their knowledge on emergency and crisis procedures during a table-top exercise.
The chaplains discussed potential support roles they may have to serve during an emergency and how to improve their standard operating procedures in the event of a crisis.
The exercise consisted of a series of discussions centered on several theoretical crises, such as natural disasters and mass casualty scenarios.
In most cases, it takes approximately 10-15 minutes for a call to reach emergency personnel and another 10-15 minutes to close off an affected area and for medical care to arrive. Chaplains discussed what their roles should be during these time periods to provide the moral and emotional support needed by those affected.
“There is always going to be chaos when a tragedy occurs,” said Chief Petty Officer Lyon J. Kennelly, the leading chief petty officer for the MCIPAC chaplain’s office. “What is important is how we are able to provide assistance and support.”
The exercise brought together chaplains with MCIPAC and its major subordinate commands, according to Navy Capt. Brenda B. Davila, the command chaplain for MCIPAC.
“We chaplains are always so busy, so it can be hard to find a time where we can all participate,” said Davila. “Still, we hope to make this at least a semiannual training exercise and continue to involve as many of the chaplains as possible, so we get a variety of opinions and experiences in our discussions.”
All discussion and key points made during the exercise will be used during the revision of the III MEF and MCIPAC chaplain crisis response plan, according to Carl D. Hinson, the emergency management analyst for MCIPAC.
Since installations and units are spread throughout Okinawa, it was important for the chaplains to come together and discuss crisis response together, according to Lt. Cmdr. Alfred Pena, the deputy command chaplain for MCIPAC.
“It is important to (conduct) this exercise and review the plan because we need to know how to respond anywhere at any time to provide support, just as medical personnel and the Provost Marshal’s Office do,” said Pena. “Chaplains should be prepared for when people are traumatized or need help coping with a situation. We need to be ready to help Marines, sailors, civilian personnel and their families, and this exercise will help us continue to refine our procedures in the event of a crisis.”