USAG DAEGU, South Korea -- Evacuations must be necessary when we face either man-made or natural disasters. In order to deal with such situations, United States Army Garrison Daegu and Area IV held its annual Noncombatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) exercise at Camp Walker Kelly Gym. The exercise started on June 4 for setting up, and it was going along during a week.
NEO exercises were regularly scheduled annual training events held twice a year. This is not in response to North Korea provocations or other real-world circumstances. United States Forces Korea (USFK) has conducted NEO exercised under the name Focused Passage and Courageous Channel since 1996. NEO exercises under other names were conducted prior to 1996.
"If we are in the dangerous environment, we should prepare to leave the peninsula," said Aaron Bench, NEO Warden at USAG Daegu. "The purpose of NEO exercise is to quickly and safely move Non-Combatant Evacuees from foreign countries where their lives may be endangered by war, civil unrest, or natural disaster as soon as possible," said Bench.
During the exercise, noncombatant evacuees are required to have their NEO packets checked by their unit NEO warden. Civilians can walk step-by-step through the process that would be used in a real-world NEO. First they register in the NEO Tracking System, and visit the various stations including NEO Packet Verification, Housing, Finance, Legal, Vet Services, ACS, Red Cross, Chaplain, Mask Verification and Mask Training in order. The exercise ends with Unit Verification and Checkout.
American Red Cross offers different services for evacuees during a NEO including a Safe and Well website for people. "The Safe and Well website will allow people who are affected by a disaster to enter information regarding their welfare so family and friends can check their status," said Mia Bostic, American Red Cross Area IV Regional Program Manager. "So as they move from one location to another, there will be Red Cross office. They can go and update their messages there. It means people can let their families know that they are safe, and they are now in for example Okinawa, Tokyo, or in the United States through this website."
The exercise is critical to the readiness of family members and Department of Defense-affiliated personnel in the event of an evacuation. This exercise improves overall mission readiness by executing unit and individual level administrative tasks, leading to a higher state of readiness during real-world NEO operation.
"We expect this operation to be really helpful to Non-Combatant Evacuees," said Lee Andrew, NEO Warden at USAG Daegu. "The operation is holding up smoothly. Every NCEs can get in and check their packets, so when the situation happens all of a sudden, they are ready for the emergency."
"Actually, this is my second NEO exercise," said Grady Murray, Area IV civilian. "Everything is put together really nicely and the wardens are so friendly to us. I think this exercise is naturally needed. Nobody knows what could happen, so this is really important to prepare for the situation."