KATHMANDU, Nepal--More than 300 disaster response professionals from 14 countries met in Kathmandu for the Nepal Pacific Resilience Disaster Response Exercise and Exchange (DREE) opening ceremony, 25 Sep. 2018.

The annual civil-military disaster preparedness and response initiative is co-hosted by the Nepali Army, Nepal Ministry of Home Affairs and the United States Army Pacific and staffed by servicemembers from U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

The multinational, multilateral, joint-exercise consists of subject matter expert exchanges, table top evaluations, functional exercises and an after-action review. During the exercise, participants from national militaries, government organizations, the United Nations and non-government entities are split into teams according to expertise to work through a common earthquake scenario while sharing knowledge, testing common operating procedures and making recommendations to improve future disaster planning and response procedures.

Michael C. Gonzales, Chargé d'Affaires, U.S. Embassy Kathmandu, Nepal, was a guest speaker at the opening ceremony and explained the goals of this year's exercise.

"Pacific Resilience 2018 aims to advance the disaster management skills and knowledge of all participants. Ultimately disasters are a reality that all of us must face. What we do in preparation for them and what we do in response to them, truly can mean life or death. Our goal with this program is to ensure the full array of responders, both uniformed and civilian, are optimally prepared to respond to disasters, and in doing so, to serve and protect our communities and our countries. Resiliency and capacity building are the pillars on which disaster management rest. Exercises like this DREE provide an opportunity for the government of Nepal to build on its disaster management capability, thus creating a more resilient and capable Nepal."

The Nepali Army, Nepal's Ministry of Home Affairs and USARPAC agreed to now hold the exercise annually. Traditionally, the Nepal Pacific Resiliency DREE has been held every two years since 2011, but in 2015 it had to be postponed a year due to the massive Gorkha earthquake that devastated the city killing almost 9,000 people, injuring more than 21,000, and damaging or destroying more than 600,000 structures in Kathmandu and throughout the country. Kathmandu, the location of the country's only international airport, is still rebuilding, as much of the city's infrastructure was damaged and many cultural sites were decimated.

Studies have shown that the 7.8 magnitude earthquake may have only been a precursor to a more powerful event to come.

"While this looming curse can't be prevented, preventative measures, with greater emphasis on preparedness, rescue, relief, effective management and realism, can minimize the damage," said Vrem Kumar Rai, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Nepal.

The guest of honor, General Purna Chandra Thapa, Chief of Army Staff in the Nepalese Army, provided opening remarks. "Disaster management is undeniably a multisectoral responsibility therefore there is a pressing need to cooperate closely with each other and share experiences and expertise on disaster management and mitigation, build rescue and relief capabilities and widely disseminate technology and innovation among the stakeholders. Additionally, our experiences have shown that deployment of military assets as part of the prime responders, for regional and international assistance, and responses to disaster relief has increasingly become an international norm. Employing military assets in disaster relief in humanitarian relief efforts is legally justified and morally ethical. Thus, we need to create a network toward our objectives. As the motto of the exercise is unity of effort, it best exemplifies the way our efforts have to be stringent both in preparations and in responses to disasters. "

Pacific Resilience is a series of Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief engagements between USARPAC and several host nation forces including the Bangladesh Armed Forces Division, the Tentara Nasional Indonesia, the Nepali Army, the People's Liberation Army in China, and many others.

Under the umbrella of Pacific Resilience, DREEs are conducted to evaluate and exercise best practices and technical capacity development progression from one year to the next, and enhance interoperability and capacity through SME presentations, Table-Top Exercises and Field Training Exercises. Participants respond to a large-scale disaster scenario which would profoundly impact the host nation. Public, private and military medical facilities may also be evaluated, as are search and rescue techniques.

This exercise is scheduled to conclude with a closing ceremony on 28 Sep., and the planning for next year's exercise is scheduled to begin in a few months.