US, China Disaster Management Exchange closes out in Oregon

By Airman 1st Class Nathan Barbour´é×November 21, 2017

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(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

The 2017 DME was a U.S.-China humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exchange, which included an expert academic discussion (EAD), a tabletop exchange (TTE) and a practical field exchange (PFE).

Hosted by U.S. Army Pacific, the DME provides an opportunity for hands-on and side-by-side interaction between United States Army and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) operations and enables sharing of lessons learned.

The exchange focused on a national flooding scenario in which both armies will be requested to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to a third affected state as part of a Multinational Coordination Center (MNCC).

"The Disaster Management Exchange is foundational to U.S.-China relations, and I am proud of the work everyone has done. The more we can accomplish now in terms of de-confliction and risk reduction, makes us more effective when an actual crisis occurs. Our work now will save lives later," said Gen. Robert B. Brown, U.S Army Pacific Commanding General.

Gen. Brown also commented on multi-national responses through MNCC being the most effective method of response, and the likelihood that participants might find themselves supporting such efforts in the Pacific in a real world natural disaster someday.

"Events like this will absolutely increase practical de-confliction and understanding of each other's procedures and processes in the event of a real-world disaster. And there will be another disaster; according to a 2016 UN Report, in just three years 'One billion people living in the Indo-Asia Pacific will reside in disaster-prone areas classified as 'high to extreme risk,'" Brown said. "So it's not a question of if we should be ready, but when we should be ready. We never wish for this kind of practical experience, but we use these experiences to improve our responses in the future, as evidenced this week."

For the EAD, a small team of U.S. military and civilian experts in the field of Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Response (HA/DR) participated in numerous briefings and site visits in Portland, Ore., to exchange lessons learned, best practices and mitigation efforts.

During the event, the EAD participants joined a larger team for the TTE and PFE portions of the DME. Approximately 96 U.S. participants and their PLA counterparts examined how they would best be able to respond to a large-scale disaster.

U.S. Coast Guard personnel started off the PFE with a water rescue demonstration and observed the exchange.

"In the event of a natural disaster that effects the Pacific Northwest Region, we anticipate an all-hands, on-deck effort to overcome that type of scenario," said Capt. David Berliner, deputy commanding officer, Coast Guard Sector Columbia River. "We anticipate that our Coast Guard personnel will work alongside our DOD brethren to provide search and rescue capabilities and supply manpower for relief efforts."

Maj. Gen. Zhang Jiang, Peoples Liberation Army Southern Theatre Commander, also expressed the importance of the U.S.-China military to military relationship throughout the years that disaster relief discussions or a formal DME have taken place.

"This year witnesses the 20th anniversary of the U.S.-China DME. We have deepened our mutual understanding and shared the achievements during cooperation and coordination," Jiang said. "We are very delighted to see that, through the years' practices, both militaries have deepened our exchanges in area of humanitarian aid and disaster relief. The events have been enriched, from EAD at the first beginning to the TTE, and now we have come to the joint PFX. This whole process has enriched the pragmatic cooperation and provided energy to mil-to-mil tie."

Starting in 2005, the DME has been held at locations in Hawaii, Washington, D.C., New York, Washington and multiple areas in China. The DME has also matured from basic visits and briefings into a substantive exchange that uses table top and practical field exchanges to focus and facilitate interaction and develop the capacity to de-conflict HA/DR operations between the U.S. Army and the PLA.

In addition to providing a learning opportunity for the U.S. and PLA Army participants, this year the DME includes military and government observers from Bangladesh, Canada, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore and the People's Republic of China.

U.S. participants include U.S. Army Pacific, the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, the Oregon National Guard, the United States Military Academy (USMA), the 351st Civil Affairs Command, the 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB), the 571st Sapper Company, the U.S Coast Guard Sector Columbia River, the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Northwestern Division, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Portland District, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the Pacific Disaster Center, an applied research center managed by the University of Hawaii.