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Navy Reservists Build Operational Planning Skills through Exercise Urgent Provider

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS121107-09

From U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/4th Fleet Public Affairs

MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- More than 100 Navy Reservists from four East Coast units participated in the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise Urgent Provider Nov. 2-3 hosted by U.S. 4th Fleet.

The exercise focused on building the skills required to support planning efforts of combatant commanders and fleet commanders responding to real-world crises.

Instructors from the Navy Maritime Operations Center (MOC) Training Team consisting of personnel from the Naval War College and U.S. Fleet Forces Command N7 developed and delivered the training, which required participants to work through problems caused by a Category 5 hurricane in Central America, including an oil spill and the need to evacuate U.S. citizens.

Members of the 4th Fleet, 5th Fleet Maritime Operations Center, U.S. Southern Command, and Navy Information Operations Command-Norfolk Reserve units used the Navy planning process to draft courses of action that were presented to Rear Adm. Jon Matheson, the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet deputy commander.

Matheson emphasized the certainty that combatant commanders and fleet commanders, in any region, will confront a crisis and that Reserve Component members will be called upon to support the headquarters staff.

"When an event happens and folks show up, there's not going to be time for them to figure out how to do mission analysis and course of action development, and how to fit into an operational planning team," or OPT, Matheson said. "This is a perfect opportunity for our teammates to learn the planning process, so they can provide relevant and valuable support to the commander when a crisis develops." Matheson said planning requires a diverse group - and teamwork.

"It's not just unrestricted line officers in the OPTs," Matheson said. "It's skill sets from across all designators, such as medical, logistics, public affairs, intel, and legal, so that when they work through the planning process and develop a course of action, and deliver it to the commander for a decision, it has been a collaborative and comprehensive effort."

Along with officers, the group being trained included significant numbers of enlisted personnel. They brought an "incredibly diverse and broad set of skills" from their military and civilian backgrounds to the planning process, said Cmdr. David Polatty, the commanding officer of the 4th Fleet Reserve unit.

Since 2008, members of the Navy MOC Training Team (MTT) have supported, educated, and trained every fleet headquarters on the Navy planning process, and the other elements of the commander's decision cycle.

"They are the Navy's corporate knowledge of best practices across the fleet and MOCs," Matheson said. "Because of that, they are the perfect organization to work with active and Reserve component personnel to help educate and train them to be prepared to fit into OPTs, which are required to provide correct information to the commander in a timely and accurate manner so that the commander can make an informed decision."

The Central American hurricane scenario, which had not been seen outside the war college, came to Mayport partly due to connections with Matheson, who once directed the Navy MTT, and Polatty, who teaches at the college as a civilian.

Capt. Paul McKeon, the current director of the Navy MTT, said the hurricane scenario was provided as an alternative to academic lectures.

"Giving people the opportunity to apply what they've learned to a practical problem is a way for them to enrich and solidify their knowledge," he said.

And while hurricanes are frequent in the 4th Fleet Area of Operations, catastrophes occur all over the world, he said, "so the fact that we have other fleets represented here is exactly what we're looking for."

Members of the Navy MTT will take what they learned from their visit to improve the scenario, McKeon said. Meanwhile, many of the Reserve Component shipmates may likely see one another again.

"It's not a question of if," said Capt. John Madril, the NR U.S. Southern Command HQ unit's commanding officer. "It's a question of when. Many of us will be together at some point on an operational planning team."

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