U.S. Army South plays a vital role in mass migration exercise

By Sgt. Mahlet Tesfaye, U.S. Army South Public AffairsMarch 12, 2015

U.S. Army South plays a vital role in mass migration exercise
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JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (March 10, 2015) -- U.S. Army South commanded a migrant operations joint task force here in support of the U.S. Southern Command-led Integrated Advance 2015 exercise, or IA 15, Feb. 21-27.

IA 15 is a migrant interdiction operation exercise set in the Caribbean which supports the Department of Homeland Security, or DHS's, Operation Vigilant Sentry - a program that deals with intervention and prevention of illegal migrants to the United States.

U.S. Army South, as the Army service component command to U.S. Southern Command, played a key role in the exercise as they worked in a command post on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston while simulating a deployment to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"A migrant operation is one of our most likely missions at Army South so we have to be prepared," said Maj. Gen. Joseph P. DiSalvo, Army South's commanding general.

The main purpose of the exercise is to develop working relationships among the different U.S. agencies and departments to deter illegal mass migration, prevent future mass migration, and encourage humanitarian relief support from international and regional partners.

"This particular exercise is valuable because, over a period of two months, we performed crisis action planning with all the interagency partners who had vital roles," DiSalvo said.

During the exercise, Army South simulated a deployment to Guantanamo Bay to provide command and control and essential services and support, including medical needs, food, water, and shelter to migrants interdicted at sea.

"This exercise allowed us to establish stronger relationships and work together with different agencies to identify areas where better coordination is needed," said Coast Guard Capt. Miriam Lafferty, the senior DHS representative to the joint task force.

Lafferty said although each agency has its own procedures, vocabulary and authorities, everyone worked together to accomplish the mission.

"I was really impressed with the joint task force's willingness to seek out the opinion of experts from different agencies in different situations," Lafferty said.

According to DHS, no single agency has the capability or resources to respond effectively to a mass migration. Therefore, an organizational plan and structure that can rapidly and effectively combine DHS enablers with those of other federal, state, and international agencies is necessary and that was the purpose of this exercise.

"Army South worked with five different government agencies during this exercise and learned how essential their capabilities are to successful mission execution," DiSalvo said.

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