By Sgt. 1st Class Kevin P. BellSeptember 21, 2012
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii -- The U.S. Army Pacific Contingency Command Post (CCP) and elements of the 311th Signal Command and 25th Infantry Division deployed to Talia Military Camp, Tonga, Sept. 21 in support of Operation Coral Reef, a week-long training exercise.
The multi-national, combined, joint exercise involves members of the Australian, New Zealand, Kingdom of Tonga and U.S. militaries and is designed to validate the CCP's capabilities. Soldiers will also participate in humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and combat skills training.
"This is a great opportunity for the CCP to test our capability and also learn from our Pacific partners, something we can't duplicate practicing this by ourselves here in Hawaii,"said the CCP's Coral Reef exercise planner, Maj. Curtis Armstrong.
CCP personnel practiced alert and deployment procedures at Fort Shafter along with U.S. Army Pacific Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion personnel who practiced the logistical piece of getting CCP personnel and equipment to Joint-Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for departure.
Initial personnel to depart were from the CCP Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team (HAST), members of the 311th Signal Command, providing enhanced communications capability, and Soldiers from the 25 Infantry Division Quick Reaction Force (QRF) who will provide security.
"During a real-world event the 25th ID Quick Reaction Force would be tasked with providing a security team, but as there is no need for security during the exercise we worked it out so the 25th Soldiers can conduct combat skills training with a group of Tongan Soldiers who are heading to Afghanistan soon," said Sgt. Maj. Christopher Grant, CCP sergeant major.
"My objective is to take as much information as I can from the Tongan Army," said Spc. Benjamin Larusso, team leader with Alpha Co., 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th ID. "It's not often that we get an opportunity like this so we are going to get everything out of it that we can."
Once a nation requests U.S. support for disaster relief, if the CCP HAST is alerted, it will be the first U.S. military force on the ground. They are prepared to deploy anywhere in the Pacific within 24 hours. The HAST's primary mission is to conduct assessments on infrastructure, particularly the ports, as well as health and medical assessments. Their assessments over the first 24-72 hours, are provided to the USARPAC Commander with recommendations on what additional support is needed.
"Part of our logistical assessment process is working with local authorities, Non Governmental Organizations and relief agencies so that we can help get what they need where it needs to be, " said Lt. Col. Gregory Brewer, Acting Director of the CCP Operational Sustainment Directorate.
Depending on the size and scope of the disaster the CCP sends additional personnel in "force packages" to support a mission. Members of the CCP were sent in two packages, the first on Sept. 21 and the second on Sept. 23.
The CCP consists of a 96-person cell representing the major staff functions of the theater-army headquarters. The CCP can provide an immediate response Theater Army Headquarters which can deploy elements to anywhere in the Pacific and provide foreign humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, non-combatant evacuation operations, consequence management and peace operations for up to 30 days.
Due to the frequency of natural disasters in the Pacific region, the CCP usually focuses on small scale contingencies such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. The CCP can tailor personnel and equipment to fit a multitude of missions with teams ranging from seven personnel (HAST) to more than 120 servicemembers if augmented.
CCP members look forward to working with their Tongan counterparts and training to strengthen their quick response procedures.
"We have a tremendous capability and a great opportunity, for us and for the Soldiers from the 25th ID," said Col. Tom Kunk, Chief of Operations and Maneuver.