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Navy Region Southeast Supports Operation Unified Response

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS100208-07
Release Date: 2/8/2010 1:08:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Monica R. Nelson, Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Commander, Navy Region Southeast activated its crisis action team Jan. 14 following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, to offer direct support to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba - the Navy installation closest to the disaster.

Located 206 miles from the earthquake's epicenter, Guantanamo Bay became the joint logistics hub for relief support to Haiti as directed by U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

"The degree of humanitarian need in this situation requires flexible, effective, joint interagency partnerships," said Cmdr. George Perez, Crisis Action Team assistant battlewatch captain. "Only the combined capabilities of the military and civilian agencies can truly meet the scope of the needs of the Haitian people."

According to Perez, the U.S. Air Force provides strategic airlift, while the U.S. Army and Marines provide command and control, communications, and security on the ground. Perez also said the Navy provides not only strategic sealift capability, but also airlift capability, medical services, and search and rescue assets.

Navy Region Southeast's Crisis Action Team is ideally suited to support the establishment of the joint logistics hub at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Perez said.

"The requirements, coordination, and communication involved in building Naval Station Guantanamo's logistic capabilities are essentially identical to the demands placed on the crisis action team in response to a natural disaster in the Southeast Region," said Perez. "Our crisis action team has significant experience in supporting Navy installations and civilian agencies due to yearly hurricanes."

Other members of the crisis action team said the benefits of using established teams are significant.

"One of the main advantages we had as a team was having our Plans, Operations, and Resources section chiefs in the same location," said Cmdr. Maurice Meagher, Crisis Action Team resources section chief. "If we weren't on the same watch floor, there would be a greater chance for miscommunication, redundant efforts, or things falling through the cracks."

When a request for support or request for forces came in to the Crisis Action Team Battlewatch from Guantanamo Bay, the request was brought to the floor for Operations to outsource, either to Resources, to Plans, or to be worked internally in Operations.

"Some of the issues we had to address involved coming up with courses of action for berthing the influx of personnel at the base, plans for utilities, how to manage the additional load infrastructure, and plans for augmentation of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay's own emergency operations center," said Bub LeNoir, Crisis Action Team plans section chief.

Resources section worked to identify and track details on personnel, determining where they were going, from where and when, what their clearance issues were, and what things were needed for them once they arrived.

"Besides personnel, we sent a lot of information technology material down, about 200 line-of-sight radios, a Broad Global Area Network communication device, and equipment to expand [Guantanamo Bay's] local area network to meet additional requirements," Meagher said.

On a different level, Operations also tracked personnel.

"Four different staffs were arriving on location and it created some problems trying to coordinate between them," said Bruce Toth, Crisis Action Team operations section chief. "Our role was to create order out of chaos. We were the single point of contact for any issues or needs. Twice a day we received a needs report from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, and we held a daily teleconference for a quick update on the situation."

Despite working sometimes 20-hour days for two consecutive weeks, the Crisis Action Team maintained focus and worked with multiple installations throughout the region to acquire material requested by those on the ground.

"As simple examples, the forklift and fire extinguisher we arranged for was planned, resourced, and executed through the crisis action team and delivered to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, having a direct effect on thousands of Haitians in their time of need," Toth said. "If you maintain that focus, the tasks we were doing, while minor, had major implications.

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