SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
U.S. Army South finished a contingency command post deployment exercise at Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras May 19, to increase readiness for upcoming contingencies in the U.S. Southern Command’s area of operations.
During the nine-day forward exercise, more than 60 Soldiers from Army South, 470th Military Intelligence Brigade, 410th Contracting Support Brigade and 56th Signal Battalion set up the CCP tactical operations center, tactical satellite communications, and participated in several operations and intelligence briefs with Army South, U.S. Agency for International Development’s and 410th CSB to rehearse their staff function as SOUTHCOM’s command and control element during contingency operations.
“There were metrics that the CCP team had to meet to ensure that they could deploy and be an operational command post in an austere environment,” said Brig. Gen. Lynn Heng, Army South deputy commanding general. “In the future, we will build upon that and bring in some more entities and organizations to build out our capabilities.”
Contingency operations are large-scale and require a coordinated U.S. government response, and training like this is key to ensuring that all participants are prepared in case a real-world crisis takes place.
The CCP will support SOUTHCOM, USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, other federal agencies and non-governmental organizations during humanitarian crises, natural disasters and other contingency operations in the Caribbean, Central and South America.
“The BHA is the lead federal coordinator of international humanitarian response, and that means USAID has the mandate to assume that leadership position and determine the strategy and approach for U.S. government response of pulling in the relevant interagency support if required.” said Kaitlyn Neuberger, USAID’s humanitarian assistance advisor to the military at SOUTHCOM. “In order for the military to get involved the Department of Defense must provide a unique capability or service that can’t be provided by civilian organizations.”
Neuberger went on to say unique and rapid DOD capabilities like air traffic control, transportation and civil engineering are most commonly necessary during natural disasters like the 2010 Haiti earthquake and Hurricanes Matthew and Iota.
Contingency operations are multifaceted, which is why the CCP trains and rehearses to deploy expeditiously. Maj. Sean Buchanan, CCP operations officer in charge, said there are communication and logistical requirements to accomplish mission success during humanitarian or disaster relief.
“This size element hasn’t deployed since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and a lot of internal and external logistical coordination went into getting here and back for this deployment exercise, so it was a balancing act between the movement of equipment and personnel,” Buchanan said. “Once we were on the ground, we were able to integrate as a staff to get everything set up and establish communications within just over 24 hours of arrival.”
Setting up communications enables the joint task force commander to have situational awareness of what is happening on the ground and relay that information to all other entities involved.
Chief Warrant Officer Morgan McCarty, CCP network operations chief, said without having efficient communication between all agencies involved in a mission, they would not be able to have coordinated operations.
“We were able to set up many different levels and types of communications, such as commercial internet, virtual teleconferencing, radio, telephone and several others to provide communication between everyone involved in the operation,” McCarty said. “Our team did a great job of stress testing our network capabilities, rapidly troubleshooting and fixing any issues that arose during this expeditionary exercise, so we can successfully execute a contingency mission in the future.”
Another operational piece is logistics. In order to get DoD personnel and equipment to a contingency operation takes a lot of combined effort.
Lt. Col. Michelle Martinez, Army South G4 sustainment division chief, said the logistical requirements depend on the mission and what capabilities are already established at the location.
“A lot of what we need to logistically consider is based on where we are going and what type of logistical support is required, but we need to ensure all classes of supplies are provided, to include material handling equipment, air/ground transport, contract support, waste management, etc.” said Martinez. “We also work with engineers to get building material needed for building, establishing a secure perimeter, or other projects that may need to be executed during a natural disaster.”
Army South also coordinated with Army Support Activity Soto Cano personnel to provide sustainment for the CCP staff.
“Our teams worked closely together to ensure access to facilities and support logistics,” said Col. Carl Hennemann, ASA Soto Cano garrison commander. “Events just like this help improve readiness and ensure, when requested, both teams are ready for a wide array of support to include disaster relief response.”
The teamwork involved in an operation of this nature reflects Army South’s enduring commitment to its partners and the importance of collective readiness when contingencies such as humanitarian crises, natural disasters and other destabilizing factors arise.
Army South is part of a multinational and whole-of-government team working to advance stability and security throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean in order to protect our shared values and way of life.