DAEGU, South Korea - U.S. military dependents, contractors, and retirees in Area 4 participated in the Courageous Channel exercise at the Kelly Fitness Center on Camp Walker from May 17 to 19 as a way to practice non-combatant evacuation operations.

Courageous Channel is an annual three-day-long United States Forces Korea NEO exercise that tests the ability of installations around the peninsula to evacuate U.S. civilians in the event that the U.S. embassy declares an emergency.

"This exercise enables everyone to practice the whole process of non-combatant evacuation operations and understand what actions they can take if they have to evacuate," said Col. John P. Chadbourne, the Material Support Center - Korea commander. "We try to make sure that we can account for each one of them and prepare them to evacuate from the peninsula in case of contingency."

The exercise is designed to rehearse the actual steps that participants would go through in the event of an evacuation. After safety briefings, they learned how the exercise would be carried out and were instructed on various topics including how to use chemical protective masks.

"I have four kids and I think having a training exercise like this is very much needed in order for proper evacuation especially large families, so that they feel safe in foreign countries," said Kennita Heseman, a military spouse from Camp Walker.

For three days, evacuees went through several stations at the Kelly Fitness Center, which is the Area 4 official relocation center. Stations include housing, finance, transportation, legal, chaplain, Red Cross, central issue facility, and mask demonstration. They were briefed on the simulated situation and given a checklist of stations they had to process through.

Before the actual exercise started, non-combatants had met their NEO wardens who are responsible for checking on his or her group of non-combatants and continuously updating the group on any new information. In the event of a developing crisis, people should stay at home or a safe place and prepare to react to instructions from their NEO wardens.

"NEO wardens were trained by their units to assist and inform the noncombatants during the evacuation process," said Staff Sgt. Mary Byrne, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison - Daegu, mailroom non-commissioned officer in charge. "We contacted all the assigned families and reviewed their actual NEO packets, documentations, and chemical protective masks ensuring that the process goes smoothly."

NEO exercises have been conducted in Korea since 1996.

In previous years, the Courageous Channel exercise was handled by the 501st Sustainment Brigade, however, it was handed over to MSC-K this year.

"It was determined that 501st Sustainment Brigade was better suited to have another mission that it is uniquely qualified to conduct," Chadbourne said. "It seems reasonable that we could take this mission from the 501st Sustainment Brigade so they would be able to focus more on the war fighting aspect."

Normally during the exercise, people are evacuated out of the country, but were not this year based on a decision from USFK, which controls the NEO exercises conducted in all four areas.

"This type of training reinforces our overall mission readiness, which will enable more efficient operations during a real-world situation," said Mr. Austin Anderson, the director of quality management.