News: Army Reserve-Puerto Rico ready to help during local emergencies
Story by Maj. Carlos Cuebas
PUERTO NUEVO, Puerto Rico - Soldiers and civilians assigned to the 1st Mission Support Command, U.S. Army Reserve-Puerto Rico held an Emergency Management Working Group meeting to further develop the command’s Hurricane Season plan and the Continuity of Operations Program Policy and Planning (COOP), July 30-31.
During the Emergency Management Working Group meeting, each staff section and the two Army Reserve Regional Support Groups developed and updated their annexes to the operational order, to ensure an effective command’s response in case of a local emergency.
“The National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA) provides new mobilization authority for Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) in response to domestic complex catastrophes. Based on this authorization, the Army Reserve can now provide disaster relief and emergency management to the community of Puerto Rico,” said Marcelo Rolon, COOP manager in the command.
Section 515 of the NDAA 2012 adds a new para¬graph under Title 10, U.S.C. 12304 to grant access to the Title 10 Reserve, including the Army Reserve, for disaster response missions.
According to Rolon, unit commanders are authorized to assist local government officials under the Immediate Response Authority (IRA), in coordination with the higher command, to save lives, prevent suffering, or mitigate great property damage.
Nevertheless, the change in the law does not make the Army Reserve a first responder. National Guard forces responding under state active duty or Title 32 are the only military forces considered "first responders”. However, when a governor requests federal assistance, Army Reserve forces may be part of the federal response.
The DSCA mission increases the relevance of the Army Reserve in Puerto Rico, as the island is located in a major corridor for Tropical cyclones in the Caribbean. The Army Reserve is the largest federal U.S. Army Command in the Caribbean.
With ten centers around Puerto Rico, to include the Virgin Islands, the U.S. Army Reserve has thousands of citizen soldiers with highly technical, specialized and professional skills in logistics, transportation, training, engineering, information technology, communication networking and law enforcement, among others, which can be critical during a local emergency.