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NEWS | Nov. 15, 2016

U.S. Army North Soldiers train for natural disaster response in Oregon

U.S. Army North Public Affairs

More than 60 individuals from various state, federal and government organizations worked together at the Oregon National Guard unit in Clackamas, Ore., from Oct. 30 to Nov. 4 on how to respond to natural disasters.


State emergency coordinators, along with members from Federal Emergency Management Agency-Region X and representatives from Department of Defense, or DOD, collocated to respond in times of disaster.


In the exercise scenario, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake shook the northwest coastline generating a tsunami, which resulted in more than 3,500 dead and another 20,000 sustaining injuries.


The Oregon governor activated more than 6,000 of the state’s National Guard members, with each working to plan what is needed to aid the local populace.


“Any type of catastrophic disaster response will require DOD assistants, there’s no way out of it,” said Dolph A. Diemont, FEMA Region X federal coordinating officer, “The DOD brings in capabilities that none of the other federal offices can bring. It is important for these teams to come together, learn how each agency functions and how they conduct business.


“Without the opportunity to train together, there’s a steep learning curve,” Diemont continued. “The acronyms are different, the federal response incident action planning process is different than what the military uses and all of our forms and reporting procedures are different. We come together in an exercise and practice the process that aligns all of us so that we can work together as a team. That’s one part of it, the other is building relationships before the disaster hits.”


These exercises work toward taking lessons learned from past trainings and applying them to new training, which changes the course of the future by being able to help Americans in need.


“We are better prepared to respond and assist in American people recovery as a result of this exercise,” Diemont said. “The more we do and the more we invest our time into things like this, the public benefits tremendously.”


The exercise is overseen by a group of observers and controllers responsible for making sure the incoming defense coordinating officer and the element is trained upon his or her arrival to the region they are responsible for.


“First and foremost, the training provides the new DCO – within 90 days of his or her arrival – with an opportunity to train with all team members, Army North and U.S. Northern Command staff augmentees, emergency preparedness liaison officers and regional partners he would potentially respond with,” said Mike Weimer, DCO synchronization team chief, who serves as exercise director and trainer. “The exercise design replicates a FEMA interim operating facility conducting response operations, and provides an opportunity for the whole team to see and practice and train on all of the processes and systems the DCO/E would use.”


The exercise is also an opportunity for any new DCE member, or Army North key staff members, to become trained. It’s an opportunity to try out new concepts and processes, lessons learned and best practices emerging from them.


Coming together in a training environment helps these teams learn, build and understand what they need to do for the American people when disaster hits.


“The DCO’s are highly experienced and trained, and work in a very complex environment of local, state, federal and DOD procedures and processes,” Weimer said. “The DCE is also a nine person highly trained team that is rapidly augmented to respond on little notice and validate DOD capabilities into lifesaving and sustaining operations.”