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Makani Pahili 2010 debuts emerging rapid response capability

Jun 17, 2010

By Lt. Col. Sean Wilson

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii -- Each year,the local and state Hawaii government, U.S. Federal Government and Department of Defense participate in a statewide scenario-driven hurricane preparation exercise known as Makani Pahili, which means "strong wind" in Hawaiian, held this year May 24 through June 4.

What made this year's iteration of the hurricane preparedness exercise different was the debut of the United States Army Pacific Contingency Command Post's Deployment Assessment Team. This emerging capability rolled out of Fort Shafter June 1 with the critical mission of deploying a nine-man assessment team within 24 hours notification to provide vital operational assessments and establish the core for a larger scalable CCP headquarters.

The team went through a rigorous alert and load out sequence which had the DAT move to Barber's Point Coast Guard Station to validate their load plans on the Coast Guard's C-130 transport aircraft.

"This portion replicated the teams load out and deployment to Oahu in the aftermath of a hurricane, making landfall on the Hawaiian Islands with Oahu being the hardest hit due to its population density, heavily degraded airport and port facilities," said Maj. Kevin Stonerook, USARPAC CCP DAT operations officer.

The DAT is the first responder for USARPAC for humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations. The DAT deployed after the notional hurricane made landfall to assess remote areas that could not be reached by other organizations for future Army capabilities that might be needed to support HADR missions according to Stonerook.

"This is our certification exercise to certify the lead element of the CCP," said Col. Marlin Remigio, chief of CCP operations. "In the future, we will be the deployable arm of the theater Army which will give the USARPAC and PACOM [U.S. Pacific Command] commander the flexibility of having another command and control element forward in the PACOM area of responsibility to tackle whatever contingency that may arise whether it is a natural disaster or a humanitarian assistance mission."

Among the critical tasks the DAT validated was its ability to conduct critical assessment and reporting. This required the DAT to deploy its assessment team throughout Oahu, which included Dillingham Airfield along Oahu's north shore, Tripler Army Medical Center, and Schofield Barracks. "This exercise really allowed us to test our communications infrastructure and take back the lessons learned so that we can better communicate with our higher headquarters in an operational environment," said Maj. Keegan Leonard, CCP aviation officer. "The challenges that we encountered provided the vital feedback that we needed to work out before we have to do this for real."

Vital to the exercise was the various external agencies that also participated. The DAT worked with Joint Task Force Homeland Defense, state civil defense, Honolulu PD, FEMA, PACAF, PACFLEET, and the Coast Guard. "The assistance and cooperation of all the external agencies allowed us to conduct our validation exercise in a realistic environment with the key players we would most likely work with in this type of scenario," said Stonerook.

At the end of the three-day certification exercise, all training objectives were met. "We demonstrated that we can do this mission and where we need to go forward as we further refine and develop the DAT capabilities," said Leonard. "It will truly be the spear point or torch of the CCP as we provide the initial footprint and the nucleus for the rest of the CCP to build."

USARPAC's Contingency Command Post is a lean, deployable element of the theater army headquarters, designed specifically to meet the GCC's requirements for a limited command and control capability which is theater-committed and immediately available to respond to crisis situations anywhere within the AOR. The CCP strength is its immediate response capability that is scalable to the mission. The CCP is comprised of 130 dedicated personnel which has the capability of deploying an initial 9 man deployment assessment team (DAT A) followed by a follow-on team of 14 personnel (DAT B) within 24 and 48 hours, respectively, upon notification.

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