News: Course strengthens disaster response
Story by Lance Cpl. Jose Lujano
CAMP HANSEN, Japan - Marines with III Marine Expeditionary Force participated in the joint humanitarian operations course Sept. 23-24 at Camp Courtney.
The course was designed and taught by members of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, that is responsible for leading and organizing the U.S. government’s response and assistance to countries affected by disasters.
“The course familiarizes service members with international disaster response systems, including the role of the host nation, international and non-governmental organizations, and United Nations agencies,” said Thomas Frey, a JHOC instructor with USAID/OFDA.
The course heightens service members’ preparedness when collaborating with USAID and defines the U.S. military’s role when supporting foreign disaster recovery operations, according to Frey.
“In the Marine Corps, we have a tendency to (take) charge of everything,” said Capt. Paul E. Brashier, a training officer with 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III MEF. “Having an understanding of USAID and knowing what their and our roles are gives us the ability to hit the ground running, so we can work more effectively and efficiently.”
USAID developed the JHOC training in response to requests from the Department of Defense, according to Frey. The two-day course utilizes interactive presentations, participant discussion groups and case-study methodology.
“During the course, service members learn the (response) process from when a disaster strikes to when service members provide military capabilities to a disaster,” said Daniel Dieckhaus, a JHOC instructor.
Ninety percent of the time, the host nation’s response is sufficient, according to Dieckhaus. However, if the disaster is of an unmanageable scale, the host nation may request international assistance.
“After the request is issued, the U.S. ambassador will determine if the disaster is beyond the capacity of the host nation to handle and if the host nation is asking for, or willing to accept, U.S. assistance,” said Dieckhaus.
If these criteria are met, the ambassador declares a disaster, and USAID responds, according to Dieckhaus.
“If USAID determines there is a requirement and need for a unique capability of the DOD, then we will send a request to the secretary of defense for DOD support,” said Dieckhaus.
If that request is approved, the geographic combatant command of that region will provide the requested and appropriate response. Should a disaster occur in the Asia-Pacific region, U.S. Pacific Command would task a subordinate unit to respond.
The responding unit will then deploy in support of USAID and link-up with OFDA personnel on the ground to determine specific needs.
Military personnel need to maintain a high-level of readiness because humanitarian action can mean the difference between life and death, especially when 70 percent of all disasters throughout the year occur in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Brashier.
“In this part of the world, we have wide number of disasters, such as typhoons, floods, volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis,” said Brashier.
With most of the world’s population residing within the Asia-Pacific and a great deal of those people living near disaster prone coastlines, III MEF has an obligation to understand the processes for HADR response and be prepared to carry them out, according to Brashier.
“In the event of an (HADR) response, we can be used to deliver our unique capabilities and support,” said Brashier.