Seventh-annual Pacific disaster response exercise begins in Indonesia
SENTUL, Indonesia -- U.S. Army Pacific, in partnership with the Tentara Nasional Indonesia, began their seventh-annual Pacific Resilience Disaster Response Exercise and Exchange at the International Peace and Security Center in Sentul, Indonesia, June 3.
Maj. Gen. Gary Hara, deputy commander, Hawaii Army National Guard, U.S. Army Pacific represented, known as USARPAC, during the opening ceremony alongside counterparts in the Indonesian military, Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana and the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID.
Hara gave remarks during the ceremony emphasizing the importance of bilateral exercises like the Disaster Response Exercise and Exchange, known as a DREE.
"These exercises that we conduct better prepare us to assist in a disaster, not only in Indonesia but [elsewhere] as well. We're very interested in assisting our partners in the entire Asia-Pacific in the event of a disaster," he said.
Hara also emphasized the importance of communications and interoperability with partner nations.
"I think the most important thing is the ability to communicate so we can recognize what the requirements are and focus our efforts in the right area at the right time," said Hara.
The four-day event brings together more than 125 military and civilian subject matter experts in the fields of disaster management and relief, humanitarian assistance, urban search and rescue and more, including members of the USARPAC Contingency Command Post, or CCP.
The CCP is a flexible, tailorable and rapidly deployable unit that specializes in responding to disasters and humanitarian crises. The CCP has the ability to field specially tailored Humanitarian Assistance Survey Teams, or HASTs, to give USARPAC and Pacific Command real-time assessments during a disaster.
Assessments like the HAST members provide are important because they give the command a clear picture of what is needed during a disaster and the best way to get it to the people who need it the most.
The DREE focuses on civil-military coordination, planning and response procedures in order to minimize the potential loss of life and property during a disaster.
During the DREE, participants will take part in open discussions, table-top exercises, a two-day field exercise and end with an after action review. Emphasis is placed on communication and cooperation between U.S. military, Tentara Nasional Indonesia, or TNI, and civil agencies.
In addition to military representatives, DREE participants also included governmental and non-governmental agencies; USAID, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USACE Urban Search and Rescue, Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana, known as the BNPB (Indonesia's equivalent of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency), and Satuan Reaksi Cepat Penanggulangan Bencana, which is a disaster-response rapid reaction unit.
During the table-top exercise, participants respond to a scenario in which an earthquake and subsequent tsunami have devastated the city of Padang, an area in Indonesia that has suffered several tsunamis and a massive earthquake in 2009.
Justin Pummell, a geographer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Institute for Water Resources said the DREE was all about practice making perfect.
"Without practice, you're not prepared. This is a good opportunity to refine our standard operating procedures and communication with our partner nations in the event of a disaster, so we're both more efficient and more effective," he said.
Maj. Janette Kautzman, a HAST leader with the USARPAC CCP said the DREE provided an opportunity to continually learn from civil and military partners and improve the CCP's procedures in the event of a real disaster.
"I would say DREEs are where we build our capacity by working with other civil and military organizations. We learn from each other so we can integrate, synchronize our efforts and most effectively respond to a disaster," she said.
USARPAC plans to continue these annual DREEs and to take the lessons learned here and continue to apply them to future efforts to save lives during a disaster.