OKINAWA, Japan - The government of Nepal, U.S. Departments of Defense and State, international and national agencies, and approximately 40 Marines and sailors with III Marine Expeditionary Force began a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief table-top exercise Feb. 2 in Katmandu, Nepal.<br /> <br /> The purpose of the exercise is to improve III MEF’s readiness and ability to respond to an HADR scenario in Nepal through extensive coordination, training and planning with participating members.<br /> <br /> Prior to the exercise, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III MEF, conducted a simulated alert contingency Marine Air-Ground Task Force fly-away drill Feb. 1. The drill was designed to increase 3rd MEB’s ability to rapidly deploy in response to natural disasters and other crises that could occur in the Asia-Pacific region. <br /> <br /> “A real HADR scenario will involve a lot of different Marines and sailors from III MEF and its major subordinate commands,” said Lt. Col. Steven Himelspach, the future operations officer for 3rd MEB. “HADR support begins with activating the III MEF crisis action team and concludes when designated forces redeploy back to Okinawa. Testing and evaluating our current ACM procedures allows us to more effectively respond to a real crisis.”<br /> <br /> Once participants arrived in Nepal, they transitioned to the table-top exercise, a coordinated approach to planning and simulating execution of HADR operations between the government of Nepal, U.S. Embassy Katmandu, III MEF, U.S. Army Pacific, Pacific Air Forces, multinational contributing nations and nongovernmental and international organizations. <br /> <br /> “This exercise will allow us to develop and refine the multinational coordination center concept and discuss how this concept works within the Nepal disaster response framework,” said Maj. Jude Shell, the lead 3rd MEB planner for the exercise. “This is in accordance with the multinational forces standard operating procedure, which is a document designed to increase the speed of response, interoperability, mission effectiveness and unity of effort in multinational force operations within the Asia-Pacific region during crises.” <br /> <br /> III MEF’s posture allows it to rapidly respond to crises and natural disasters throughout the region, including Nepal, to support and assist partner nations with HADR operations, according to Col. John A. Ostrowski, the chief of staff for 3rd MEB.<br /> <br /> A field training exercise is scheduled to be conducted in the fall of 2013 to test the practical application of operations and procedures discussed during the table-top exercise. <br /> <br /> “In addition to training for an HADR scenario, this exercise is an excellent opportunity to build relationships between III MEF, Nepal and participating countries and agencies in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Ostrowski.