The success of humanitarian relief operations hinges on the ability of a joint task force (JTF) or host nation authorities to coordinate relief efforts rapidly and effectively. Disaster relief operations are time sensitive and usually involve numerous governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and host nation players. Coordinating the activities of these disparate agencies, while simultaneously saving lives and minimizing suffering, places great demands on the controlling authority.
During European Command's disaster relief exercise AGILE LION in July 1997, a Marine-led JTF wrestled with these very challenges. The activities of various governmental, NGO, and Department of Defense (DoD) organizations were synchronized by JTF AGILE LION (JTF-AL), formed to coordinate international relief efforts for a (simulated) nuclear reactor meltdown in Ingalina, Lithuania. JTF-AL was built around the since-disbanded Marine Corps' Standing JTF and had representatives from the Department Energy (DoE), Department of State (DoS), DoD, International Atomic Energy Agency, various international relief agencies, and the Government of Lithuania. JTF-AL achieved mission success through Herculean staff effort, but the traditional JTF architecture hindered rapid information flow and timely completion of mission essential tasks.
Exercise Agile Lion '97, held July 11-25, trained joint task force personnel in providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the aftermath of nuclear accidents like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. In the scenario, a fire and containment breach released a plume of contaminated smoke and steam from a nuclear reactor near Ignalina, Lithuania. The incident caused a large-scale evacuation and the government of Lithuania asked the United States for humanitarian assistance.
The exercise was sponsored by the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. European Command and executed by U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe, headquartered here, and the Marine Corps Standing Joint Task Force, Camp Lejeune, NC. With the concurrence of the government of Lithuania, the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant was selected as the site of the hypothetical accident to provide a realistic setting in which JTF personnel could train alongside other U.S. government, international, and non-governmental agencies. The fundamental difference between this exercise and other humanitarian assistance exercises was the radioactive smoke from the power plant that divided the country. Agile Lion was the first exercise in which the Standing JTF had to deal with radiological contamination.
The night sky was filled with C-130s and parachutes 25-26 February 1998, as Juliet Drop Zone in Maniago, Italy, became the site of the largest joint airborne operation in years. More than 700 paratroopers from Southern European Task Force, or SETAF, at Vicenza, Italy, including a platoon of Italian airborne troops, jumped from 12 C-130s as part of Distant Lion II, a mass tactical exercise. The C-130s came from the 37th Airlift Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Soldiers assigned to the Lion Brigade at Vicenza are the U.S. European Command's response reaction force for the European theater. As such, they must be ready to respond to any contingency. Distant Lion II was the biggest exercise Ramstein's 86th Airlift Wing has had with the task force. The exercise required the airlifters to deliver nine high mobility, multipurpose wheeled vehicles, two 105 mm howitzers and a 10-ton construction digger. Following that, the paratroopers landed. Soldiers established a command element on the ground, cleared the runway and secured all buildings, effectively taking over the airport. The airstrip was then ready for aircraft to land for the simulated evacuation. Paratroopers and airmen join forces quarterly for Agile Lion airdrop exercises in Grafenwohr, Germany.
The Agile Lion '99 exercise was completed 25 Jan 1999. The scenario included African country of Burundi embassy staff and US citizen NEO evacuation, and simultaneous humanitarian assistance (HA) mission. LOGCAP used in Tanzania UN refugee camp HA mission support course of action development, and decision.
Exercise Agile Lion 2001, a unilateral US European Command directed joint task force training exercise, took place February 8-21, 2001, at Headquarters, Southern European Task Force facilities in Vicenza and Longare, Italy. The US Southern European Task Force-led computer-assisted command post training exercise included approximately 1,150 active and reserve component service members and civilians. The JTF Agile Lion Commander was Maj. Gen. Robert W. Wagner, Commander, US Southern European Task Force (Airborne).
The exercise was designed to train the Headquarters, Southern European Task Force (Airborne) staff to organize, deploy and operate a joint task force to plan and conduct a noncombatant evacuation operation in an uncertain to hostile environment. While the training scenario provided realistic and dynamic events for the JTF to respond to, the exercise was not related to any current event or events.
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