The Army Reserve's 99th Regional Support Command partnered with U.S. Army Reserve Command to conduct realistic training for the RSC's Soldiers and civilian employees Aug. 8-12.
The exercise was meant to prepare for possible real-world incidents that could impact the facilities, equipment and personnel the 99th RSC manages, maintains and supports throughout its 13-state region stretching from Maine to Virginia.
"For the purposes of this exercise, we are replicating a scenario where the 99th RSC could be asked to provide support for a National Special Security Event," said Robert E. Stabb, emergency management specialist, USARC.
"An NSSE is something that has been declared or determined by the Department of Homeland Security to be a special security event for a variety of reasons," said Stabb." "It involves events that have particular significance in the United States and therefore are a target of opportunity or could be vulnerable to attack.
The 99th RSC can and has been asked to provide assistance to federal agencies in responding to incidents that range from weather-related events to security threats.
In 2012, the National Defense Authorization Act authorized the Army Reserve to provide defense support of civil authorities, presenting a significant opportunity for the Army Reserve to meet the needs of local communities during times of need.
"The 99th RSC controls real property throughout the northeast region; they have the capability of providing real support," Stabb explained. "During the riots in Baltimore and Maryland, the 99th RSC was asked by the Federal Marshall Service to use an Army Reserve Facility that the 99th controls to stage vehicles."
In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in late 2012, the 99th RSC provided water pumps to Army Reserve units providing aid in New York City, and also opened its Army Reserve Center at Fort Tilden, Queens to provide support for local authorities as well as residents from nearby Breezy Point and other areas devastated by the storm.
Most recently, in the small city of Rainelle, West Virginia, the entire population was cut off from emergency support due to extreme rain and flooding. The 99th RSC provided a local facility for shelter, as well as an operations headquarters for the National Guard.
These are the types of scenarios for which the 99th RSC staff is training. In addition to testing the staff's reaction to scripted scenarios throughout the week, it is also teaching them valuable communication skills as coordination with many federal and local agencies is imperative for a successful mission.
"There is little that we do, whether day-to-day or in a crisis situation, that does not require us as a staff to collaborate, coordinate, communicate or cooperate with other organizations," said Maj. Gen. Major Margaret W. Boor, commanding general, 99th RSC. "There are a plethora of outside organizations we need to coordinate with in a crisis situation, and many are non-federal government."
Crucial to the mission -- and a focal point for the exercise -- are the Reserve Soldiers who don't have the opportunity to execute the 99th RSC mission everyday. Understanding what the RSC does and how they fit into that mission is extremely important during an incident that requires immediate action.
"Our Soldiers are only here for annual training and battle assemblies, which means they don't get the benefit of doing this day in and day out, said Boor. "This is a chance for them to get more integrated with the full-time staff."
Some Reserve Soldiers were asked to step out of their comfort zone and primary job to support the exercise and broaden their skillset.
"The exercise is teaching me how the 99th RSC and the staff responds to any crisis that may occur," said Staff Sgt. Peter O. Ebanks, battle NCO for the exercise.
Normally Ebanks works behind a computer as a finance specialist while serving as a Reserve Soldier, and is a full-time student at St. John's University in his civilian life.
"This is a tough job that takes a lot of coordination, smart people and research," said Ebanks. "The 99th has a large footprint with a wide range of resources, and it takes a lot to coordinate to make things happen in an acceptable amount of time."
At the end of the day, this was a training exercise preparing the 99th RSC for a real-world incident. The exercise's outcome will have much deeper and longer lasting effects.
"I want to see Soldiers and our civilian workforce get a better understanding of what we do as an RSC and how we would respond during an incident," said Boor. "We gain knowledge, increase our skills and develop teamwork among the entire staff."