CAMP WALKER, South Korea -- The 501st Sustainment Brigade hosted the annual Courageous Channel exercise at Camp Walker’s Kelly Fitness Center May 19-21. Camp Walker was the designated evacuation control center for Area IV during the exercise.
Held every spring, the exercise enables non-emergency essential U.S. civilians, contractors and U.S. military dependents to run through the different stages of an evacuation process during a noncombatant evacuation.
“This exercise is held to properly train sponsors’ family members how to evacuate in a safe manner during a non-emergency evacuation situation,” said Sgt. Alicia Regis, 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command Noncombatant Evacuation Operations warden.
During the preparatory stages of the exercise, dependents and civilians were given safety briefings and training sessions.
Evacuees learned how the exercise would be carried out and were instructed on various topics including how to use chemical protective masks.
“Our NEO wardens were very helpful in explaining all the steps and preparing us for the exercise,” said Karen Martinez, military spouse from Camp Walker.
Specially designated NEO wardens were trained by units to assist and inform the noncombatants during the evacuation process. Prior to the exercise, NEO wardens were required to contact their assigned families individually and complete a full inspection of NEO kits.
“When a NEO call is given, dependents and nonessential civilians go to their designated command centers with clothes, masks and other essential gear,” said Sgt. Michael Gary, 19th ESC NEO warden. “All civilians in Area IV ultimately resolve to Daegu. If they are evacuated by air, they are transported to the Daegu Airport and flown out. If they are evacuated by water, they are moved to Busan.”
Dependents, contractors and civilians in Area IV were able to go through the process at Camp Walker’s Kelly Fitness Cen- ter May 19 after they received a NEO call from their respective NEO wardens.
As people filed into the fitness center, they were briefed on the simulated situation and given a checklist of stations they had to process through before being hypothetically evacuated.
Stations consisted of: finance, legal, transportation, housing, Red Cross, chaplain, central issue facility and mask demonstration.
“I have two kids. I think by having this evacuation system in place, I can feel safe in foreign countries,” Martinez said. “My husband also feels safe about taking us with him during deployments abroad.”
After evacuees were processed at each station, they met with their NEO Wardens and verified that they were ready to depart from the country.
Normally during the exercise, people are evacuated out of the country, but were not this year due to the conditions in Japan.
“Evacuating dependents and civilians is very important because Soldiers perform better when they know their families are in a safe place,” Gary said. “It is also important because these people are not involved in the situation that arises. These people have to be protected.”
An evacuation order is given by the U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea in the event of a natural disaster or when the safety of American citizens is deemed to be at “undue risk.”