By Staff Sgt. Richard M, CollettaJune 29, 2012
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii - Soldiers of the U.S Army, Pacific Contingency Command Post hosted a conference June 18 - 22 and subject matter expert exchange with soldiers from the New Zealand Army's Headquarters Deployable Joint Task Force.
The CCP and DJTF share a number of similarities; both are scalable, flexible and rapidly deployable task forces able to quickly respond to disasters and emergencies in their respective parts of the world to provide planning, assessment and execution of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations.
During the conference, U.S and NZ soldiers, and members of the Canterbury Civil Defense Emergency Management (CDEM) Group conducted a workshop about the response and effects during the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. They also had an opportunity to meet with various local civil defense and emergency management organizations.
James Thompson, an operations and training coordinator for the Canterbury CDEM Group said meeting with local civil defense groups and hosting the workshop was greatly beneficial.
"The key thing out of it for us was affirming our validations. We're working similarly and sharing the knowledge with each other from the lessons learned and effects of the Christchurch earthquake," said Thompson.
The conference ended with a two-day Humanitarian Assistance Response Training (HART) course taught by the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance. The course was focused on introducing military support to civilian led disasters, humanitarian assistance in conflict responses and general coordination between civil and military agencies during HADR operations.
Bobby Ray Gordon, Humanitarian Operations Advisor for the Center for Excellence and HART instructor said it was great teaching both U.S. and New Zealand servicemembers and civilians.
"Which uniform you wear matters little to the disaster victims who are in dire need of assistance. Being able to work closely amongst ourselves in the U.S. government and with our friends in the region to provide a coordinated and effective response helps save lives and alleviate suffering -- and that is why we respond to these crises."
Maj. Kenneth Frey, an Engineer Plans Officer with the CCP, who coordinated the event said it came together flawlessly and benefitted everyone in attendance.
Frey initially began planning for this conference during his own visit to New Zealand to attend an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) course hosted by the Canterbury CDEM Group earlier this year.
"It's probable our forces will meet in another country during a humanitarian response and work as coalition partners," said Frey.
"Understanding each other's capabilities and sharing knowledge helps both countries to provide effective responses." he added.
The Headquarters DJTF (Land) Commander, Col. Phil McKee said networking and exchanges like this are absolutely essential in the HADR community.
"When we're doing things on a short notice, knowing people, having these networks and knowing their procedures and capabilities is absolutely essential."
McKee said he also looked forward to more Soldiers from the CCP like Frey attending their EOC course.
"There's not a lot of new stuff out there and it's about using what everyone knows already, putting it together and learning from each others' experiences. Coming here and working together has been a fantastic opportunity for everyone," said McKee.