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AFNORTH hosts HOMEX 15 for DSCA preparedness

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Ed Staton
  • AFNORTH Public Affairs
To better prepare for Air Forces Northern support of U.S. Northern Command's Defense Support of Civil Authorities mission, AFNORTH hosted Home Exercise 2015 April 21-23 at the Killey Center.

For it, military and civilian representatives from DSCA-related organizations across the nation came together in an information-sharing forum to discuss past operations, present issues and the way forward. They not only focused on how each organization specifically supports DSCA operations, but also how each provides complimentary contributions in the effort toward interagency cooperation.

"This exercise was not only for getting people familiar and educated with all of the procedures and processes that go along with DSCA," Said Lt Col Tim Williams, Chief of Ops Training, 1AF/AFNORTH.  "More importantly, HOMEX 15 put faces with names of folks you may be dealing with across the country with the numerous joint intergovernmental, interagency and multinational partners that you'll be utilizing during an event."

Events that require DSCA response occur when local or state emergency-response resources are overwhelmed by a natural or manmade event and federal resources are requested. Some past examples include Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy and the California wild fires.

In fact, protocol of proper federal response was a key topic discussed during HOMEX 15. Unlike a wartime mission where U.S. military forces are in charge, DoD and federal agency personnel are directed by the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988 to allow the governor of a state to initially respond with the state's emergency response plan.  If the magnitude of the event exceeds the state's capability to respond, then federal assistance can be requested through a presidential declaration.  Once called upon for support, DoD and federal agencies serve in a support  role.

"We're supporting the local responders, whether it be a county official or a state official who requests the support," Williams said. "The DoD's role  is to find out what they need and use all available means to deliver what they need in a timely manner." 

Since DSCA missions often include multiple DoD forces that may have an unfamiliarity with one another, HOMEX 15 brought leaders from multiple military branches with federal agency representatives to discuss how to best coordinate their emergency-response efforts.  One scenario examined how to best manage airspace populated by aircraft from Air Force, Army and Navy safely and effectively in the air space over a disaster zone. 

"Without coordination provided by the FAA, implementing civil support air missions would be challenging," said Jim Call, AFNORTH Federal Aviation Administration Liaison.  "FAA is final authority.  If people were to go off into different directions during a DSCA mission, it could cause confusion and a lack of control over those aircraft."

With the hurricane season a little more than a month away, HOMEX 15 culminated with a hurricane table-top exercise during which participants responded to a fictional Hurricane Carol that threatened the Gulf Coast with excessive winds and storm surge. 

This particular scenario afforded planners the opportunity to respond to an event given several days warning,  simulating the activities of a real-world scenario.

"The most critical advantage to an exercise like this is it provides the opportunity to execute our emergency-response plans to see where we can improve and refine our processes," Williams said. "It's a valuable experience for all the participants."