Area I families rehearse evacuation
At Camp Red Cloud May 18, Area I Soldiers scan passports or ID cards into the Non-combatant Evacuation Operation tracking system during exercise Courageous Channel, which the U.S. military in Korea holds twice yearly across the peninsula to rehearse the process of evacuating civilians in wartime or crisis. Once the scanning is done, evacuees are given bar-coded wristbands that allow them to be tracked at each stage of their journey to final destination. " U. S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Troth

CAMP RED CLOUD South Korea -- Area I military communities took part this month in a twice-yearly rehearsal of the steps they'd take if war or other crisis forced the evacuation of civilians from South Korea.

The U.S. military held the rehearsal, an exercise called Courageous Channel, May 17 -- 19 at its installations across the peninsula.

It serves as a rehearsal for the elaborate process authorities would set in motion to evacuate family members, non-emergency essential civilians and contractors.

"This exercise is so they are familiar with the process and it is not a shock when it comes time for them to actually move," said Sgt. 1st Class Ward Thorp, sergeant-in-charge of the Camp Red Cloud Evacuation Control Center.

"In a real situation this would be more chaotic, we would have a lot of people converging on the (Non-combatant Evacuation Operation) node at the same time," he said.

"I definitely feel better going through this," said Theresa Simmons, a first-time Courageous Channel participant. "I now have an idea of how things will work if anything happens and I have to evacuate."

For Simmons, the process began when she reported to the center, underwent a security check, and met with a representative from the veterinary office to ensure paperwork for her two cats was in order.

At the next station, passports or ID cards were scanned into the NEO tracking system and each person and pet received a white wristband bearing a bar code.

As evacuees arrive and depart each stage of their journey to final destination, that bar code is scanned, thus tracking their movements.

With wristbands attached, the Courageous Channel participants next showed their NEO information packets to Soldiers assigned to ensure the packets are up-to-date and complete. The packets contain key information about a family, any pets it may have, current contact information and a strip map to their Korea residence.

"It is key to ensure everything is current, because we have hundreds of families processing through the NEO site," said Sgt. 1st Class Fredrick Fisher, the NEO representative for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud.

Among other processing stations evacuees stop at in the center are those for the chaplain, legal services and transportation.

"The biggest questions that we are asked," said Thorp, is "'What happens to my vehicle, my household goods?'

"There is a good chance that you will not get your goods back," he said. "Everyone should do a good inventory, take pictures, write it down and keep receipts, so that when you get back to the states you can file through the claims office."

"My husband was going to make a high value list," said Elizabeth Luciano, another first-time NEO participant and mother of four boys. "But, I told him if something happened I don't care. Nothing is high value to me -- just the kids."

Page last updated Thu May 24th, 2012 at 20:50