The organization that provides food, water, medicine and other supplies when a natural disaster strikes continued finding ways to improve its readiness during a simulated exercise May 28-29 in Philadelphia.
During the tabletop exercise, Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support tested its ability to support multiple natural disaster relief efforts, coordinate with government partners and industry to meet requirements and, new this year, execute evacuation contingency plans.
“This is a collective training event so that we can validate our ability to respond to disasters in the U.S. at the advent of hurricane season,” Army Brig. Gen. Mark Simerly, DLA Troop Support Commander, said to the exercise participants. “The National Weather Service expects two to four major hurricanes this season, so we’re expecting a more active season than we did last year.”
In the exercise scenario, DLA Troop Support was providing support to active wildfires in the Southwest when a hurricane made landfall on the mid-Atlantic coast and required an evacuation of their Philadelphia headquarters to a contingency location.
Dorothy O’Connell, a DLA Troop Support J3/5 customer support liaison, said the exercise was unique because it was the first time it demonstrated DLA Troop Support’s command and control during the evacuation, while also continuing dual relief efforts to the different partners with separate requirements.
“This year we are positioned to really test ourselves,” O’Connell said. “This is the first time we exercised two different scenarios that Troop Support would regularly provide support to and incorporated the Continuity of Operations Planning aspect.”
The participants included representatives and liaison officers from:
– DLA headquarters and major subordinate commands
– Army Logistics
– Federal Emergency Management Agency
– U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
– U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Southern Command
Their presence provided realistic expectations of requirements, identified gaps in resources and clarified roles and responsibilities, which helped make the exercise effective, according to O’Connell.
“The fact that we’re all in one room, the cross talk is valuable and saves a lot of time,” she said. “Just sharing information and sharing items across from each other saves hours.”
In recent years, Troop Support had a large role in supporting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts, such as assisting the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hurricane Florence mission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildland Fire Protection Program.
Although it was just an exercise, the realistic scenarios helped strengthen the partnerships between the agencies in responding to natural disasters.
“We want to make sure you all are familiar with your role, more familiar with the things you don’t know and more familiar with yourself,” Simerly said. “So when that first storm strikes, we’re postured to step in and respond for our nation.”