By Sgt. Joshua Ford, U.S. Army North PAOFebruary 2, 2010
TAMPA -- The National Guard Bureau and U.S. Northern Command conducted their annual hurricane workshop Jan. 19-22 in downtown Tampa.
Top Department of Defense, federal and state officials gathered together to discuss federal and state hurricane response plans. The gathering also provided them an avenue to make recommendations for any necessary improvements.
"This forum is a place for us to exchange ideas, plans and procedures well in advance of an emergency," said Lt. Gen Guy Swan III, U.S. Army North commanding general.
During the conference, the attendees discussed and further developed plans for aero-medical evacuation, communications, transportation and funding of forces so they would all be working on the same page in the event of a disaster.
"What we have realized is that one component cannot do it by itself," said Col. Laverm "Bullet" Young, Region VI defense coordinating officer, Army North. "As a result of this conference, you are now seeing a blending of National Guard, Reserve and active components responding as a team and operating as a team."
The workshop has been held annually since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the gulf coast in 2005. The devastation wrought by the storm demonstrated how, at that time, the United States was ill-prepared in its response to such a natural disaster.
"There will always be chaos, and there will always be confusion, but we want to reduce that as much as possible ahead of time so that it is more manageable - and the conference goes a long way in reducing that," said Swan.
Perhaps one of the most prominent reasons for conducting an annual workshop such as this is it provides commanders, federal officials and state officials a chance to meet each other.
"One of the things we want to avoid is meeting each other for the first time during an emergency event," said Swan. "This helps us build relationships and provides us an opportunity to look at where we can mutually support one another."
Ultimately, the goal of the workshop is for the participants to garner their lessons learned and put this knowledge to work in the form of operational plans for the military, states, and federal organizations.
"We want to keep building on (disaster response plans) so that we don't find ourselves in a position where the only solution is just to put as many people as you possibly can to resolve a problem," said Gen. Gene. Renuart Jr., commanding general for U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command.