Army Community Service tests family assistance measures
May 13, 2011
CAMP CASEY, South Korea - Anger, confusion, lost ID cards, medical care and pregnancy complications, foreign languages, lost powers of attorney, no money, shelter or food. These challenges and many others were part of an Army Community Service exercise here to test U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud's ability to run a family assistance center.
ACS' first ever family assistance center exercise May 3 was designed to test its ability to establish and operate a comprehensive facility to provide displaced people with the myriad of essential support agency services they could conceivably need during an actual natural disaster, mass deployment, mobilization or mass casualty event.
"The exercise was a success," said Vernon Johnson, exercise coordinator and ACS mobilization and deployment specialist. "We did capture lessons learned to determine our gaps and also the capabilities that we have."
The mock situation began with record raining falling on Dongducheon in the early morning hours causing many residential areas to flood - something all too realistic for the people who lived through the 1998 flood that inundated the community with 26 inches of rain in 48 hours according to a Stars and Stripes report.
Mock displaced families began showing up at the center at 9 a.m. to work through 31 scenarios - all of which are potentially real life challenges - that would be addressed at the family assistance center.
Legal, Tricare, finance, human resources, logistics, child, youth and school services, religious services, American Red Cross and United Services Organization representatives were all present to assist role players with the numerous challenges displaced families could conceivably face during an actual emergency.
One of the role players - Sgt. Matthew Tompkins, a supply sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud - performed credibly as an angry and aggressive Soldier in need of help. At one point with a military policeman following him, Tompkins slapped a door startling the chaplain. Tompkins said he used his friends' experiences to act out his three roles.
"The scenarios were very realistic and overall everyone handled it pretty well," he said. "There was no one losing their cool or anything. They stayed pretty calm, which I was impressed with because I was being as irate as possible... I'm sure the stress level for them was high because of us."
The exercise finished about 11 a.m. with an after-action review attended by all 60 of the staff agencies representatives and role players.
"We received a lot of feedback from the family members," Johnson said. "They really enjoyed being a part of the exercise and knowing that Area I really cares about their safety in the event of a crisis."
It instilled confidence in the Tompkins that his family would get the assistance they could need.
"If my family was over here and this happened, I'd definitely be happy to have them take care of them," said Tompkins, whose spouse and 7-year-old son are living at Fort Riley, Kansas, while he serves a one-year unaccompanied tour of duty.
Johnson said exercise may be included as part of the garrison's annual base defense exercise in the future and that it is just one part of the requirements for ACS to receive its accreditation, which it is currently undergoing with the ACS Accreditation Division from Fort Monroe, Va.