Guard Coordination Center helps states respond to disasters
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

ARLINGTON, Va. -- As Tropical Storm Barry fast approaches the Gulf Coast, the Louisiana National Guard has mobilized more than 2,500 of its Army and Air Guard members.

But when responding to disasters, an affected state doesn't have to go it alone. That's where the National Guard Coordination Center fits into the disaster response picture.

Staffed by Guard members and civilians from the National Guard Bureau and visiting Guard members from states and territories, the NGCC assists in coordinating response activities with federal agency partners, ensuring that state Guard units have what they need to save lives, maintain order and mitigate damage.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Burkett, vice director of the NGB's domestic operations directorate, said such support falls directly in line with the Guard's homeland security mission.

"This comes down to the NGB standing ready for a crisis, [and] supporting whatever requirements a state's governor is going to need for an emergency response," he said.

He said NGCC activities are all about "supporting rapid decision making" at the state level while painting a "strategic and operational level" picture for specific federal entities.

"We are in contact with the defense secretary's office, the Joint Staff, coordinating with U.S. Northern Command, reaching out to [FEMA], talking to all of our other federal agency partners," said Burkett, adding that such outreach and coordination is about a single thing: a thoughtful and disciplined response to the needs of state civil authorities.

But supporting those authorities also means compiling information for the chief of the NGB so he is able to communicate the entire disaster response picture to other national senior leaders.

This is why, Burkett added, it's paramount to train and activate the NGCC's unique contribution to disaster response, the Adaptive Battle Staff. It is comprised of Guard members with diverse functions who ultimately help illuminate the complexities driving the response to an affected region. Together with a recent NGCC innovation, the National Guard All-Hazards Playbook, Burkett notes this is what separates current from past efforts.

"We can successfully anticipate and handle a wide range of crises that ensures the National Guard is ready, well-postured and integrated with our federal and state counterparts," said Burkett.

Burkett said that while past Guard response efforts have made a difference, Guard members taking a forward-looking approach in responding to natural disasters ensures an "Always Ready, Always There" mindset.

"It's more than just a logo," he said. "It reflects our passion and commitment to our communities, and it's exclusive to the Guard."

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