Story by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Shepherd and Les Ozawa United States Army, Pacific, Public Affairs FORD ISLAND- Imagine a Category 4 hurricane slamming Waikiki and downtown Honolulu. With sustained winds of more than 135 mph and a 15 foot storm surge, Oahu, Hawaii's most populous island, could see hundreds of deaths, billions of dollars damage and hundreds of thousands of people without power, food and water. Members of Joint Task Force-Homeland Defense trained for such a scenario May 12-15 during Makani Pahili 2008, the annual U.S. Pacific Command-directed joint military exercise on Fort Shafter and Ford Island. The exercise focused on how the military can help the state recover after a hurricane hits Oahu, in the post-landfall phase of operations. "This is a great opportunity for the military to demonstrate how it supports civil authorities post catastrophic natural disaster," said Lt. Col. Ed Toy, Joint Task Force Homeland Defense chief. "As hurricane season approaches us on June 1, we want to take the opportunity to demonstrate how we can support response and recovery efforts for the state of Hawaii." Makani Pahili ("strong wind" in Hawaiian) is an interagency exercise designed to test the coordinated efforts among all levels of government and private sector organizations. While this exercise validated JTF-HD's hurricane recovery plans, the state's exercise, which starts May 19, will focus on all phases of its hurricane plans. "It is critical because we are all collectively in this together," Toy said. "We understand, given the isolation of the island chain, that we have to have dependency and reliance on each other so that we can sustain and maintain life support following a natural disaster." U.S. Army, Pacific is the executive agent for the U.S. Pacific Command's JTF-HD, whose mission is to help Hawaii and other mid-Pacific island communities prepare for and recover from hurricanes and other major disasters. Though USARPAC is the executive agent for JTF-HD, liaisons from the Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard also play a pivotal role in assessing and aiding in recovery efforts during a hurricane. All services have the capability to provide medical aid and damage assessment teams, plus engineering assets to help with the clean-up effort. Toy also stressed that JTF-HD can only aid in post-hurricane recovery when called upon by state or federal authorities. "We are not in charge; we are in support of the civil authorities," he said. "All emergencies, regardless of type or magnitude, start and end at the local level. The (Department of Defense) is a piece of that process. Certainly, we can provide a significant amount of capability. Demographically, we have more military here than any other state in the country." Toy said that after lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina and Rita, mechanisms were put in place at the Federal level to expedite declaration of an emergency. Once local or federal authorities decide to call upon the DOD for help during a hurricane, JTF-HD has the ability to forward deploy a command center to track relief efforts closer to the affected area. If JTF-HD is asked to help before the hurricane makes landfall, then they are able to pre-position equipment to respond quicker once the storm has passed. "First, we identify the emergency response assets," Toy said. "That might be helicopters, trucks, people, power generation, medical capability or engineer capability. We predetermine the status of those, so that we can pre-position the equipment where we think there's a likely safe haven so when requested, it can be provided to the state of Hawaii." This year, the JTF-HD staff set up a forward-deployed command center at Ford Island, continuing to build on last year's Makani Pahili exercise. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the most powerful hurricane to ever hit Hawaii was Hurricane Iniki which passed through the island of Kauai in September of 1992. It was because of this Category 4 hurricane that the state of Hawaii started Exercise Makani Pahili. "Obviously, a Category 4 hurricane is a significant event in the state of Hawaii, especially when it crosses the most populous island in the chain," Toy said. "This forces the agencies from the state of Hawaii to think worse case scenario so that they posture the correct capability and train their people accordingly. If we don't do that, then we're kidding ourselves and it can be a serious error on our part." -30-
CUTLINE- Lt. Col. Ed Toy, Joint Task Force-Homeland Defense chief, speaks to local media members during Exercise Makani Pahili, a United States Pacific Command exercise designed to provide military resources when requested by state and local governments during hurricanes.