Military leaders refine disaster response during course for nation's newest dual-status commanders
February 21, 2013
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - Military leaders from a score of states traveled to U.S. Army North headquarters Feb. 12-13 for the Dual Status Commanders Orientation Course; the event served as a forum to discuss and learn about the methods, capabilities and services federal ground forces can provide a commander.
The "dual-status commander," a position held by a senior National Guard officer, can command federal (Title 10) and state (Title 32) forces during a disaster.
Each state governor can appoint a dual status commander for his or her state, with approval of the Secretary of Defense. The roles and responsibilities for dual status commanders can differ between states and even between different disasters or emergencies.
"If you have only been through one disaster, then you have been through only one disaster," said Charlie Canedy, chief of Army North's commanders' action group, to the course attendees.
Agencies and entities at all levels have evolved with each event they have encountered. These continued efforts have also helped shape the DSC program more and more by tracking the lessons learned.
Lt. Gen. William Caldwell IV, commanding general, Army North (Fifth Army) and senior commander, Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis, described in detail the evolution of military disaster support he has seen from Hurricane Katrina relief efforts to the more recent Superstorm Sandy.
Caldwell, as the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division at the time Katrina made landfall, described arriving into New Orleans days after the storm and having little guidance on the division's disaster response mission. He then compared that to the development of the National Response Framework and the interagency and military-civilian coordination, now in place, that enabled the Department of Defense to offer lifesaving and life-sustaining capability to the states even before Sandy's landfall.
"It's about forming those relationships before something happens," said Caldwell.
Brig. Gen. Mike Swezey, who served as the DSC for New York during Superstorm Sandy, said that DSCs must know what federal capabilities are available to the states.
"We want to make sure our state governers are informed on what 'Title 10 activation' means," he continued. "It is ultimately up to the governor what Title 10 forces are used."
Swezey said inter-agency relationships were also important, noting that a state in the middle of a disaster response "is not Iraq or Afghanistan."
"The military isn't the only solution or even the last solution; it is part of the solution," said Swezey.
During the meeting, there were several other leaders from Army North on hand to give advice about developing those relationships.
Maj. Gen. Charles Gailes, commanding general of Task Force-51, the operational command and control element under Army North, challenged the potential DSCs to "go back to your staff and discuss with them how you would scale up to the involvement of Title 10 forces, integrate them into your plans with all the different pieces that are involved, and then scale back down at the end of an operation."
Gailes also challenged them to consider how they would work with adjacent states in a regional response because different states have different plans.
The key to successful lifesaving and life-sustaining operations in the homeland is cooperation between local, state and federal forces, he said. A disaster is not the time for bureaucratic red tape.
"At the end of the day, we are all working toward a unity of effort," Gailes said.