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    U.S. Marines Participate in Disaster Field Operations Course with Florida College Students

    U.S. Marines Participate in Disaster Field Operations Course with Florida College Students

    Photo By Sgt. Camila Melendez | U.S. Marines with 4th Civil Affairs Group and U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Camila Melendez 

    U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South

    MIAMI - U.S. Marines with 4th Civil Affairs Group (CAG) and U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South participated in a Disaster Field Operations Course (DFOC) hosted by Florida International University (FIU) at their Biscayne Bay Campus, Florida, July 15-17, 2022.

    The DFOC is an interagency exercise designed to provide graduate students with experience in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) while in a foreign disaster scenario. Graduate students in the Academy for International Disaster Preparedness (AIDP) program conduct the course at FIU’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine as part of their annual capstone event.

    According to Dulce M. Suarez, AIDP graduate program assistant director, students are not required to author a thesis paper; rather, they “do a capstone event where they respond to a simulation to an international disaster.”

    The exercise consisted of a multi-day field simulation focused on disaster response activities from an earthquake in the fictional country of “Bockistan.” Based on this scenario, students apply the knowledge learned during the program in a simulated disaster scenario.

    During the exercise, instructors divided students and Marines into 11 clusters that represented different functions of support for a host nation in need. The Marines and students went to different sites of the fictional country to assess needs and see how best to provide support.

    4th CAG participated in and provided support to FIU’s DFOC by integrating civil affairs Marines with civilian disaster responders to collectively address problems posed by a simulated earthquake. Additionally, 4th CAG communications, supply, and logistics Marines provided FIU students insight to capabilities Department of Defense components can provide while acting as part of a joint task force in a disaster response mission.

    “The same mission set that civil affairs Marines support in HA/DR is synonymous with what these graduate students are preparing for in their future careers,” said Major Victor Colon, a civil military operations planner with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South. “Whether it be the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), or working with non-government organizations, this exercise was an opportunity for Marines to integrate with the students and for both sides to mutually benefit since this would be an effect in a real-life HA/DR scenario.”

    Civil affairs Marines fall exclusively under the Marine Forces Reserve; in a disaster assistance scenario, the civil affairs role can include providing the technical expertise, advice and assistance that can influence the success of disaster assistance operations.

    When needed, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) has assisted many countries affected by natural disasters with the construction of emergency operations centers, disaster relief warehouses, fire stations and community centers that double as shelters.

    SOUTHCOM established Joint Task Force-Haiti in 2021 to conduct military operations in support of foreign disaster assistance led by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) at request of the Haitian government’s request after an earthquake. The command donated search and rescue boats and transport vehicles to Haitian emergency response and civil protection agencies.

    “In allowing these teams to get a taste of what it’s like to work with military deployments and merging them with the military experience,” said Bridget Palaez, assistant director for the Division of Operations and Safety, and adjunct professor for the AIPD. “Our students can learn to mix the adlib character they have with the structure the military has to bridge the (civil-military) gap. The more that we can bridge that gap on the training field, the better.”

    The event also included participation from the U.S. Coast Guard, Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue, Florida Advanced Surgical Transport Team, USAID/BHA, role players, Food for the Poor and other non-governmental organizations.

    “I am so thankful for the partnership the Marines have offered FIU and its students because it's one more step into building these resiliencies before a disaster hits,” said Suarez. “It's this type of partnership that's going to save lives in the future and build better policies for us to implement.”

    The event provided an opportunity for Reserve Marines to increase their military occupational specialty proficiency and readiness while in a simulated crisis.

    U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South led the Marine Corps participation in FIU’s DFOC and plans on continuing their participation in the future.

    “Even after being in an austere environment, much worse than my students are going through, the Marines have smiles on their faces,” said Ruben Almaguer, founding member of the
    AIDP. “They have a positive attitude, and they are willing to help us, and they don’t even know us. I hope the Marines continue partnering with us, so we can grow this program, together.”



    Date Taken: 07.15.2022
    Date Posted: 08.08.2022 00:40
    Story ID: 426743
    Location: MIAMI, FLORIDA, US

    Web Views: 260
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