ARNORTH fine-tunes disaster response
November 28, 2006
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Army News Service, Nov. 28, 2006) - U.S. Army North completed a weeklong Defense support of civil authorities exercise Nov. 19 in Sacramento, Calif.
Dubbed Golden Guardian, the exercise revolved around a disaster scenario involving an earthquake in San Francisco measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale. The scenario is one of 15 Department of Homeland Security planning scenarios in the National Response Plan.
The scenario also caused all command elements within ARNORTH to respond and provided the framework to drive critical battle staff processes.
"We needed a scenario big enough to drive DOD involvement," said Lt. Col. Paul Condon, chief of exercises for ARNORTH. "A catastrophic event of that magnitude would be expected to result in a significant role for DOD."
Soldiers and civilians from ARNORTH's Operational Command Post 1 deployed by air Nov. 16 from San Antonio, Texas, to the Wildland Fire Training Center in Sacramento. The exercise tested the OCP's ability to deploy and conduct DSCA operations.
"We provided OCP 1 with everything they needed to practice Defense support of civil authorities," said Col. Kerry Larrabee, ARNORTH director of training and exercises. "The Training and Exercises Division assembled members of the command, contractors and augmentees from other units and services to support a realistic and challenging exercise."
Larrabee, who is also OCP 1's chief of staff, said that the exercise was beneficial and met the training objectives for both the OCP and the Training and Exercise Division.
ARNORTH also used the exercise as an opportunity to conduct the first-ever air deployment of the command's new communications vehicle, the Sentinel.
Deployment of the Sentinel allowed rapid establishment of Internet, telephone, cellular telephone and radio communications, which would be vital during a real disaster, said ARNORTH Network Manager Kyle Monsees.
"The main take-away for us was the training for all of us (in the communications directorate) and our supported users on the capabilities and limitations of the vehicle," Monsees explained. "If we don't know what it is capable of, then we don't know how to properly deploy it."
Also participating in the exercise was ARNORTH's Defense Coordinating Officer and Coordinating Element for FEMA Region IX, the region that includes California. The state has some unique geographical features that make it an ideal location for disaster response training, said Lt. Col. Paul Gault, deputy Region IX DCO.
"California has a myriad of fault lines that are extremely active," Gault said. "The San Andreas fault is not the only one."
The ARNORTH exercise was named for California's earthquake emergency response exercise that was held Nov. 14-16. The command used the state's exercise to help drive its scenario, as well as to establish and exercise relationships with key partners.
"During the first part of the exercise, we worked with our state and FEMA counterparts who are the local and federal experts in disaster response," Gault said.
In addition, Lt. Gen. Robert Clark, ARNORTH commanding general, met with California officials including the adjutant general to exchange information and tour the state's emergency operations center.
Golden Guardian is the fourth exercise this year for OCP 1 and the seventh exercise that ARNORTH has participated in since the unit's initial stand up in September 2005. As the Army's new component command supporting U.S. Northern Command, the unit pursued a robust training schedule in order to achieve full operational capability by Oct. 1 this year.
Senior leaders say they were pleased with the conduct of the exercise.
"These (exercises) are hard to do," said Maj. Gen. Walter Zink, commander of OCP 1. "I've seen us grow from exercise to exercise."
"We achieved our objectives," he said, "and continue to improve, which is always one of the goals. I'm happy with the OCP 1 team and feel confident that we can accomplish the mission for ARNORTH and the American people."