US, Republic of Georgia participate in joint disaster relief exercise
June 20, 2013
TBLISI, Georgia -- U.S. military and civilians, alongside representatives from the Republic of Georgia's agency ministries participated in the third annual Shared Horizons exercise, June 18-22, here.
"Shared Horizons allows Republic of Georgia representatives the avenue to train on national response planning and highlight their inter-ministry cooperation," said Command Sgt. Maj. Lance Rygmyr, Shared Horizons Chief of Exercise Control.
Shared Horizons is in its third year as a part of a state partnership between the Republic of Georgia and the State of Georgia, which began in 1995. Included in the exercise were Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers, U.S. Army Europe representatives, representatives from the Republic of Georgia's Emergency Management Department, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Press Center, alongside other Georgian officials.
"We have honed our skills in adaptability and flexibility here," said Capt. Jonathan Mleynek, Team Leader for the civil affairs team out of Fort Bliss, Texas. "In the future we will be able to use these skills, among others when engaging with other agencies and host nations in an operation [abroad], as well as stateside."
Shared Horizons not only trains Georgians on disaster relief operations, but also provides U.S. forces with a unique opportunity.
"This exercise gives them [the U.S. Soldiers] not only the opportunity to share their experience and knowhow in an emergency management situation, but also to receive an equal amount of knowledge on how other countries respond in a disaster situation," said Rygmyr.
During the exercise, a U.S. Army civil affairs team with the 80th Civil Affairs Battalion worked with the Emergency Management Department to discuss methods and tactics used in search and rescue missions. The EMD is a national search and rescue team that serves as a secondary force for Georgian municipalities and is also responsible for the training of municipality rescue forces.
"I hope the U.S. Soldiers will be able to see how our system works here in Georgia, as well as our tactics, technology and communication practices as they are conducted between agencies and ministries during disaster relief operations," said Malkhaz Lagurashrili, Head of Training Division in the EMD.
In the simulated exercise scenario, a catastrophic earthquake took place in the Republic of Georgia. The tasks for exercise participants include determining the proper response process and activation of resources 48 hours post-disaster, and then six weeks post-disaster. The participants also had simulation media involved, which allowed them to develop media relation skills to keep the public informed in the event of a national disaster.
"We are in a very unique position to take all these tools at our disposal to help coordinate cohesive emergency response programs in this city. As state partners we are able to get these agencies to work together to form a cohesive, streamlined process for emergency management capabilities, so that in case of a natural disaster, they are more likely to be able to handle it in-house," added Rygmyr.
Shared Horizons 2013 is the third and final iteration in this bi-lateral exercise which has run annually since 2011. The U.S. Army National Guards's State Partnership Program has ensured nearly two decades of teamwork between the state of Georgia's Army National Guard and the Republic of Georgia, dating back to 1994.