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    Service members team up to prepare for state emergency

    United Response

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Ian Kummer | California Air National Guard Aviation Liason Officer Capt. Edward Newman from the...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Ian Kummer 

    California National Guard Primary   

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. – While most Americans are probably familiar with the fable of the ant and the grasshopper, how many apply the moral of the story to their own lives? How many people living their everyday lives have adopted the ant’s philosophy, preparing in case of emergency?

    This is a question of particular importance to the more than 38 million residents of California, a state with hundreds of thousands of acres of dry terrain ripe for wildfires, more than 200 fault lines, and major population centers that could be targeted by a terrorist attack.

    Ever vigilant in the face of these threats, the California National Guard at the Joint Force Headquarters in Sacramento coordinated United Response, an annual exercise bringing together reservists and active duty troops from across the military components stationed in the state to train and prepare for a real life emergency, Aug. 19 through Aug. 24, 2013.

    “United Response, when it was started in 2011, was the first dual-command exercise of its kind in the nation,” said Terry Finnegan, a senior National Guard Bureau analyst.

    As the scenario, a simulated earthquake in San Francisco, played out over minutes, hours and days, several underlying principles became apparent. The first was the importance of interoperability between the participating players – cooperation between organizations that have different command and reporting structures, standard operating procedures, and even different radios can at times be easier said than done.

    Though an onlooker observing uniformed service members conducting relief and rescue operations may assume they are all the same, there are actually two distinct groups with radically different roles and legal considerations. The first is the active-duty military, which is organized in accordance with Title 10 of the United States Code. The second is the National Guard, which is organized in accordance with Title 32. The crucial difference between Title 10 and Title 32 is the Posse Comitatus Act, a law first passed by Congress in 1878 marking the end of the Reconstruction Era and the withdrawal of Federal troops from the former Confederate States. Title 10 service members can support the National Guard and other state authorities in an emergency, but are limited in their role, out of respect for the rights of the local citizens and the state government’s authority.

    “[The Marine Corps] can move a large force up the coastline to respond to a disaster, but we cannot conduct security or law enforcement,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Mathew Becker, the Anti-Terrorism Force Protection Chief for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

    Another theme present throughout the exercise was institutional memory – as older service members retire and new service members come in, basic skills can be degraded or even forgotten entirely. Just as a rifleman builds muscle memory by repeatedly firing his weapon and doing exercises with his team, an entire organization builds institutional memory by conducting consistent and repetitive training year after year, so every member has participated regardless of rank or seniority.

    “You have a lot of people old and young,” Finnegan said. “Let’s apply the new generation’s energy with the outgoing generation’s knowledge.”

    United Response was a table-top exercise, a test of the joint chain of command’s ability to coordinate appropriate responses to “injects,” simulated events announced unexpectedly throughout the exercise which tested every participant’s ability to work under pressure and communicate effectively. The actual units, personnel and equipment discussed in the exercise were all simulated on the Emergency and Disaster Management Simulation (EDMSIM) system, a computer program used to simulate a disaster or terrorist attack, as well as the operations, movement, and logistical needs of real-life units responding to the crisis.

    “It’s better to practice first without calling everyone up,” said Spc. Caleb Hammonds, an EDMSIM operator at United Response. “The lessons we learn here can be applied in real life next year by units in their annual training.”

    Perhaps the most important benefit of conducting United Response in this manner was the ability of the involved organizations to participate without tying up resources and reduce their readiness for an actual crisis that could occur during the training event. This paid off, as the training went forward as planned, even as California Guard C-130s and helicopters battled real-life wild fires, unimpeded by the training event.

    “Let’s make this simple, let’s do it smart, for the benefit of the state,” Finnegan said.



    Date Taken: 08.24.2013
    Date Posted: 08.30.2013 15:28
    Story ID: 112929
    Location: SACRAMENTO, CA, US 

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