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    Annual MFN Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer Workshop



    Courtesy Story

    Marine Forces Reserve

    MARINE CORPS SUPPORT FACILITY NEW ORLEANS, La. – From September 9-11, U.S. Marine Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers (EPLOs), Liaison Officers (LNOs), and staff augmentees from across the nation met for an annual workshop to discuss Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) for fiscal year 2021 and beyond.

    As a part of Marine Forces North’s (MARFORNORTH) mission to conduct homeland defense operations and provide defense support to civil authorities, EPLOs coordinate with federal agencies, and state and local governments for support following natural disasters and emergency relief within NORTHCOM’s area of responsibility. Under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 and Title 10, USC Section 12304a, MARFORNORTH is authorized to provide assistance to DSCA operations in the United States or its territories if requested by a state’s governor and local authorities and supported by the lead federal agency. “Those local civil authorities address natural disasters in CONUS,” says Col. Philip Constantin, one of the workshop’s attending EPLOs with MARFORNORTH. When local or state authorities cannot effectively address a natural disaster, a request for support goes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA can field specific requirements through assets Marine units can provide. Local units have “a tremendous amount of capability that the locals would need in these emergency situations,” says Constantin, but they are typically reserved as the “capability of last resort.”

    MARFORNORTH positions EPLOs within ten regions designated by FEMA to assist in appropriately tasking Marine Corps personnel and assets in support of DSCA operations. The EPLOs serve to ensure local Marine Corps assets are appropriately utilized in support of disaster relief. Currently, there are roughly thirty Marine EPLOs distributed across all ten regions outlined by FEMA, all within NORTHCOM’s area of responsibility. These Marines are tasked with determining support to natural disasters before they occur if possible, and to provide recommendations for support to affected areas when necessary.

    All MARFORNORTH EPLO billets are staffed by Marines with Marine Forces Reserve (MARFORRES). These reserve Marines serve three- to five-year assignments for their designated FEMA regions, regions in which their reserve training sites are located. All reserve Marines serving as EPLOs are brought in on active duty orders from the Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA) Detachment. Not only do IMA Detachment Marines fulfill their reserve component service requirements of 48 drills and two weeks of annual training each year, but the call to provide support to local authorities as an EPLO could come at any time. Additionally, it is very common that those units nearest a disaster event are with MARFORRES. Because of this, “the actual work on the ground has been done by reservists,” says Col. Lance Windel, another Marine EPLO in attendance at this year’s workshop.

    In addition to their reserve component requirements and response to DSCA operations, Marine EPLOs meet once a year at the Marine Corps Support Facility in New Orleans for their annual workshop. Roughly twenty EPLOs attended this year’s workshop in person, with the remaining Marines attending virtually to alleviate risks posed by COVID-19. Senior attendees, whether in person or virtually, provided update briefs on their assigned FEMA region. At the end of the three day workshop, after action reports were developed to improve support to DSCA operations in the future. “We really try to make them [AARs] lessons learned and not just lessons recorded,” says Col. John Harris. These reports are used to establish best practices, and to ensure Marine EPLOs don’t lose sight of the big picture when the time comes to address future disasters.

    At the time of this year’s workshop, Marines with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing were tasked with assisting relief efforts in support of the wild fires burning throughout Northern California. Support to wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters demonstrates the importance of staffing EPLO billets with reserve Marines capable of responding to major disasters and emergencies at a moment’s notice.



    Date Taken: 09.16.2020
    Date Posted: 09.29.2020 11:10
    Story ID: 379319

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