By Randy MitchellMarch 6, 2012
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (March 6, 2012) -- U.S. Army North is gearing up for hurricane season by preparing for a large-scale hurricane exercise at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas.
Military and federal exercise planners gathered here for a final planning conference to put the finishing touches on a hurricane scenario scheduled to take place May 2-9 as one event in a series of exercises known Ardent Sentry 2012.
The exercise will test the capabilities of Task Force 51, a 75-person unit assigned to U.S. Army North designed to command and control military forces providing defense support of civil authorities during a catastrophic disaster.
"Task Force 51 continually looks for opportunities to prepare for the worst-case scenarios," said Maj. Chris Campbell, TF-51 operations officer. "Ardent Sentry 2012, and more specifically the hurricane scenario, provides us the ability to gauge our level of preparedness for a catastrophic disaster."
U.S. Northern Command, through Ardent Sentry 2012, will test TF-51's ability to respond to a large disaster. The exercise will also award the task force the opportunity to earn their Hurricane certification.
It took a lot of planning to build a dynamic exercise that would enable the task force to be certified. A lot of questions had to be answered and tasks had to be developed.
"We addressed issues the first day of the planning conference, which enabled us to get our concerns to the Exercise Management Working Group for resolution early in the process," said Jon Smidt, U.S. Northern Command's senior exercise planner for the Hurricane exercise. "Those issues were resolved, and we now have a solid way ahead to complete the exercise scenario, which will now shift to U.S. Army North."
Smidt said he is confident TF-51 is up to the task and will do great during the hurricane exercise.
However, hurricanes aren't the only disaster TF-51 prepares for according to Campbell.
"We're ready to respond to any natural or man-made disaster within in the United States, Campbell said. "Our Soldiers and civilians are among the most professional and well-trained people in providing command and control of military forces responding to a disaster in the U.S."
The task force facilitates the DOD in bringing additional capabilities during a disaster as part of a larger federal response when requested by the state and approved by the Secretary of Defense. TF-51 expedites those DOD forces in bringing life-saving and life-sustaining capabilities to an incident faster by working directly with local, state and federal first responders and agencies.
It is a task that U.S. Army North, which is the headquarters command for TF-51, has embraced by developing a strong training partnership with state National Guard units and FEMA through years of joint training through major disaster exercises and actual disaster, such as Hurricane Irene last year.
This close relationship enables U.S. Army North to anticipate what unique military capabilities may be requested to support civil authorities during a large disaster, according to Campbell.
U.S. Army North, located Fort Sam Houston, Texas, provides defense support of civil authorities as the Army component of U.S. Northern Command, the unified command on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., that is responsible for homeland defense and civil support.