By Spc. Chris Moore, 123d Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentFebruary 20, 2013
NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba -- More than 500 personnel from U.S. Army South, U.S. Southern Command and other military units and government agencies deployed here as part of exercise Integrated Advanced Feb. 7-17.
Integrated Advance is a biennial exercise during which Army South and SOUTHCOM train to support the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State in a humanitarian crisis scenario. This year's exercise scenario focused on mass migration in the Caribbean.
The commander of Army South, Maj. Gen. Frederick S. Rudesheim, was tasked with deploying personnel from his command, along with personnel from the other SOUTHCOM service component commands, augmentees and other government agencies to exercise the establishment of Joint Task Force-Migrant Operations to support Homeland Security Task Force Southeast.
"The exercise focused on us being able to deploy a command and control node, establish initial communications and then build on that node in order to perform the duties of a joint task force," said Rudesheim. "It's extremely important to learn from every exercise you have. Learning and getting better every day was the number one thing we focused on, and in that respect, I was extremely pleased because we got better exponentially in some cases as the exercise proceeded."
This year's exercise primarily tested SOUTHCOM and its service components' abilities to develop command and control relationships required to respond to a mass migration scenario, while working and training alongside other federal agencies.
"What this exercise allows us to do is flesh-out some of the processes and resources we would need if a mass migration were to occur," said Rear Adm. Jon G. Matheson, deputy commander of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and 4th Fleet and deputy joint task force commander for JTF-MIGOPS.
Mass migration operations are complex and large in scale, requiring a coordinated interagency U.S. government response. Integrated Advance allowed Army South and SOUTHCOM to increase interoperability with other U.S. government agencies.
"If there was a mass influx of migrants, it takes a significant effort to set up the camps. In order to ensure we have the capability and capacity to do that, it is, on occasion, appropriate to bring forces out to the actual environment where the camps would be set up," said Matheson.
JTF-MIGOPS tested the ability of military and U.S. government agencies to work together, but after the exercise is where the participants will have to complete the hardest part, which is gathering lessons learned and integrating those principles into future operations plans.
"I saw real teamwork by coming together and building those relationships that are so important at the high-tactical, operational level," said Rudesheim. "However, the hard work is just beginning. We have to be able to take what we observed, capture those in lessons learned by actually acting on what has been observed, and then fold those into the plan as it currently exists to improve it in a number of measures of effectiveness."