By Maj. Bonnie ConardSeptember 23, 2019
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -While Homeland Defense is U.S. Army North's number one priority, the command also provides military-unique capabilities in support of requests from a lead federal agency following destructive storms such as Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Sandy, Harvey, Maria and Florence.
Recently, Army North supported the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) during Hurricane Dorian response operations.
For this response mission, staging forces and equipment was key to a successful, rapid response.
Army North is the Army Component of U.S. Northern Command, led by Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy.
"It is incredibly important that we work at the speed of need and recognize the Department of Defense has capabilities and capacity to deploy on short notice into very austere conditions, which are not necessarily available in other federal agencies or necessarily in the private sector," said O'Shaughnessy at a Sep. 3 Department of Defense briefing on Hurricane Dorian preparations.
With this kind of commitment in mind, Army North proactively established its Joint Force Land Component Command contingency command post, Task Force 51. Concurrently, the JFLCC deployed two forward liaison teams to staging areas on the east coast and activated Defense Coordinating Officers and Elements across the country to be ready to support the lead federal agencies should their assistance be requested.
"As unique capabilities were requested by the lead federal agency, we moved forward and prepared the way for our active duty forces," said Col. Edward B. Hayes, Task Force 51 Chief of Staff. "One of TF 51's more critical tasks was to assist these forces with integrating efficiently into state and National Guard response efforts."
Army North staff and its subordinate forces train year-round to operate as part of joint, interagency, and combined teams during planned and no-notice response missions in support of civil authorities.
Army North has learned to rely on the combined strength, training, and unity of its local, state, and federal partners by developing partnerships with the states through ten DCEs. These partnerships enable Army North to identify capability gaps and integrate potential federal military support into state and regional plans.
Prior to the storm's arrival, Army North deployed personnel and staged aviation, engineer, and logistics command elements to support response operations within 24 hours or less across the Southeastern U.S. In addition, the command alerted likely active and reserve forces across Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia to be ready to deploy within 48 hours of notification.
As Dorian evolved, so did Army North. As the threat to the U.S. mainland lessened, Army North's efforts rapidly transitioned from a FEMA-led Defense Support of Civil Authorities mission to a USAID-led response operation.
Army North's seamless support transition from one lead federal agency to another is evidence of proper training and leadership of its staff, DCOs, DCEs, and forces to prepare for flexible, multi-state response efforts while continuing to defend the homeland.