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    Forging New Frontiers: Collaborative Exercise Combines Federal and Military Disaster-Response Training

    JTF-CS supports FEMA during Exercise Vibrant Response 23

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Jacob Derry | CHICAGO — Joint Task Force Civil Support is always in support of a primary agency,...... read more read more



    Story by Cathryn Lindsay 

    Joint Task Force Civil Support

    The need to work seamlessly alongside one another and understand how each entity operates is a critical aspect of success when organizations come together to respond following an emergency or crisis. During disaster response exercises, the importance of connecting responding agencies early to reinforce relationships and increase interoperability cannot be overstated.

    A pioneering initiative has emerged within U.S. Northern Command’s Joint Task Force - Civil Support (JTF-CS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region I, marking a significant leap in disaster-response readiness. This groundbreaking collaboration intertwines JTF-CS’ annual exercise Sudden Response with the Certification Exercise for the Defense Coordinating Officer (DCO) from FEMA Region I, setting a new standard in multi-echelon federal disaster-response training.

    The exercise held February 3-8 at Camp Nett at Niantic, Connecticut and Fort Eustis, Virginia, will be linked by both scenario and execution to ensure a unified team is prepared to respond to a notional nuclear detonation over an American city requiring federal support. During this type of response, the Defense Coordinating Element (DCE) would work with FEMA to receive and process requests for assistance from local and state agencies, which, after review and validation, would be passed to JTF-CS for action by the forces under command and control of the JTF-CS commander.

    JTF-CS conducts chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear-disaster response, and natural and manmade Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) operations to save lives, mitigate human suffering and prevent further injury.

    Defense Support of Civil Authorities is provided by Department of Defense assets in response to a request for assistance in domestic emergencies upon approval from appropriate authorities. DSCA includes support to prepare, prevent, protect, respond and recover from domestic incidents.
    Defense Coordinating Offices and Elements (DCOs and DCEs) are specialized 10-person planning cells, led by a senior Army colonel. During a response, the DCO/E has the capability to build a team of up to 40 people, including Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers coming from multiple services within each state. The DCE team maintains relationships with federal and state interagency counterparts to ensure a seamless transition to no-notice disaster response. They are co-located with each FEMA regional headquarters and serve as liaisons to the Secretary of Defense's to validate requests from local and state governments.

    “The combined training builds upon the strong relationship established during the Nation’s COVID response and hospital augmentation missions with FEMA Region I, but seeks to further develop familiarity with the region's geography, response plans and leadership,” said Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Grasso, director of operations for JTF-CS.
    This upcoming exercise collaboration promises to mark a new chapter for future cooperation between DCO and DCE entities and corresponding military missions, allowing FEMA and JTF-CS to provide a well-rounded training experience that mirrors a real-world response to catastrophic incidents by practicing processes and communications from geographically-separated locations.

    One goal is to demonstrate that combined DCO, DCE and JTF-CS exercises can achieve more cohesive and realistic training that will lead to enhanced disaster response for the American people when they need it most. The exercise will also ensure that JTF-CS and units comprising the Defense CBRN Response Force are trained and ready to execute their mission in the United States and its territories leading to greater Homeland resiliency. 

    “We hope this experience leads to a new exercise standard that combines real-world partners and active-duty military mission command alongside the DCO, DCEs and their Certification Exercises,” said Army Col. Carl Parsons, the commander of JTF-CS.

    “This collaboration is the greatest advancement for Sudden Response we’ve had in the last decade,” said Hans Lageshulte, the lead exercise planner for Sudden Response. “If this goes well, we hope to use a similar collaboration and scenario in next year’s exercise with FEMA Region IV.”
    The partnership forged between JTF-CS’s Incident Support Team-Coordination and the DCE is central to this exercise's design. This collaboration imitates the real-world systems and National Response Framework that would ensure the orderly employment of military forces to provide the right lifesaving, and life-sustaining support.

    “As we move forward, it's clear that exercises like these pave the way for more robust disaster-response capabilities, ensuring the utmost preparedness to serve the American people in their time of need,” Parsons said. “Nothing is more important than having trained, equipped and ready teams.”
    About Joint Task Force – Civil Support

    JTF-CS is a flexible, agile, adaptive, responsive, and professional Joint Force. It possesses professional personnel across all services which will respond in time of need with a Joint Force with operational technical expertise, training and equipment to respond to multiple contingencies in support of Homeland Defense and Civil Support operations. The JTF is educated, considerate, and diverse with equality considerations in all operations.

    JTF-CS is the nations’ only standing CBRN joint task force. It is comprised of active and reserve component service members from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. The headquarters also includes Department of the Air Force civilians and contract personnel.

    Established in October 1999, JTF-CS is assigned to U.S. Northern Command and conducts CBRN response operations planning and preparedness to maximize mission readiness and capability. The commander of U.S. Army North has operational control of JTF-CS.
    JTF-CS accomplishes response operations in strict adherence with the Constitution and public law. When directed on the authority of the President, through the Secretary of Defense, USNORTHCOM provides defense support of civil authorities when requested by local, state, tribal and federal officials.

    In any domestic setting, JTF-CS always remains in support of civil authorities integrating the DOD response with other interagency capabilities to achieve unity of effort under the National Response Framework.


    Date Taken: 01.18.2024
    Date Posted: 01.18.2024 09:34
    Story ID: 462001

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