JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - FORT SAM HOUSTON - With hurricane season upon us, more than 115 leaders from federal, state, U.S. territories and the military met here June 12 to discuss and coordinate active duty military support to emergency response efforts.
The Rehearsal of Concept drill was organized by U.S. Army North, the Army component of U.S. Northern Command, as part of its mission to support civil authorities during disasters. Officials from the National Guard Bureau, Army Reserve, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and many others were present to lay out their respective courses of action in the event of a hurricane response.
"The importance of an event like this is you get to see senior leaders directly involved in the process of response and it's not something where it's a simple briefing or we are just talking at the action officer level," said Jesus Cuartas, Chief of Operational Planning for FEMA Region II. "We have senior leaders actually discussing and talking about some of their critical short falls and challenges and opportunity for future successes and operations, he added."
In addition to the planning aspect of the day-long event, the ROC drill was also a chance for participants to meet each other before any adverse weather hits America's Atlantic and gulf coasts.
Being able to interface and meet many of the people we will be working with should a situation like this take place is one of the major benefits of the ROC drill, according to Col. Gerald Tucker, Officer in Charge for the Operational Sustainment Team, 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).
"We are able to take some great lessons learned from those that have participated in many of these scenarios in the past," said Tucker.
"The best thing right now is to listen to the leadership and all the experience," said Maj. Ruben Abreu, Emergency Management and Defense Support of Civil Authorities Officer in Charge for 1st Mission Support Command.
Leadership like Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, commanding general for ARNORTH, shared his lessons learned from Hurricane Maria and it was a good learning experience to hear about the things he has learned from that, Abreu said.
The event was designed to coordinate the types of support that active duty military forces could be asked to provide to states, territories and FEMA in the event of a major hurricane response.
"We are doing this exercise to maximize our support role to the civilian authorities, which are the ones responsible to direct the activities in their state," said Brig. Gen. Miguel A. Mendez, Puerto Rico National Guard Land Component Commander and designated Dual Status commander. "We have an important role in supporting civilian authorities and we are a big asset to support them and the residents."
"I am taking back from this exercise a lot of knowledge, new relationships, to trust and count on other services to support. The National Guard cannot handle a major disaster by itself and forces from all services would be essential to success of our mission," added Mendez.