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Reserve ROC Learns On-the-Job During TOPOFF 3 Exercise

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050418-04
Release Date: 4/18/2005 11:44:00 AM

By Journalist 1st Class (SW/AW) Mark A. Savage, Commander, Navy Region Northeast Public Affairs

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- Reserve component Commander, Navy Region Northeast Regional Operations Center participated in the Top Officials (TOPOFF) 3 exercise April 4-8.

During the event, the states of Connecticut and New Jersey tested their abilities to respond to mock chemical and biological terrorist attacks.

"This was a good exercise for us because we're learning on the job," said Capt. Sherrill J. Hazard III, the unit's commanding officer.

The reserve unit worked out of the Regional Operations Center (ROC) at Naval Submarine Base (SUBASE) New London and kept the regional commanders informed about the events and activities taking place during the exercise.

The unit also spent the week familiarizing themselves with their new duties and the different functions of the ROC.

"The biggest thing we learned is the Incident Command System (ICS), which is set up to help coordinate and manage the incident," Hazard continued.

According to Hazard, an exercise like TOPOFF 3 introduces the reserve unit to the different players with whom they would interact with during an event.

"There's a lot of learning, meeting and understanding other people," Hazard said. "That's part of what TOPOFF 3 does."

The exercise and the ICS also taught the team about communication. Operations Specialist 2nd Class Bari Young agreed that communication was one of the most important aspects of a successful exercise.

"During this week, there was some misinformed communication and misunderstandings as far as what everyone was supposed to do," Young said. "But we got that situated so that when the next exercise comes up, we will know exactly what everybody is supposed to do."

Young, who joined the reserve unit in January after separating from active duty, fell back on her experiences as an operations specialist to help her as she kept logs, passed information throughout the ROC and tracked messages.

"This is very familiar territory for me as far as being in this type of scenario, since I've done this before on active duty," Young said. "But this was kind of new to the others, so I was helping them along the way."

The reserve unit is also made up of several other members from a variety of civilian occupations, including a customs agent, a bomb disposal agent and an engineer with the Tennessee Valley Authority.

"We have a plethora of skills, and I feel confident that we have a very proud and dedicated group of Sailors that really like what they're doing," Hazard said. "They see the benefits of it and they want to be involved in it."

With this experience behind them, personnel in the unit now feel ready to augment the Navy Region Northeast Regional Operations Center and provide the support necessary to all players during an actual crisis, according to Hazard.

"The Navy is very good at thinking of defense-in-depth or in [terms of] redundancy, and having the reserves involved in this type of thing gives us that redundancy," Hazard said. "Not only is there the ability to stand up the regional operations center with regional staff, we have the ability to do almost the complete augment with the reserves, and have the capability of going around the clock without burning out all our people."

Because the Reservists reside in areas throughout New England, they have the ability to assemble the ROC in different locations within just a few hours.

"What happens if SUBASE is the place of the incident and everyone's at work?" Hazard asked. "We still have to stand up the ROC someplace, and we have people who are trained on how to do that, [and to] know who they have to talk to and what reports have to be done. They can make this happen, so that's a big benefit."

According to Hazard, the unit still has several open billets and is looking for more Reservists who would like to serve with the unit and get involved in this type of activity.

"I need people that can think on their feet and make things happen, and every single one of them has rogered up to that, and they are stupendous," Hazard said. "I've never been happier in my life. It's the best unit I've ever commanded."

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