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AFNORTH hosts training assembly

  • Published
  • By Mary McHale
  • AFNORTH Public Affairs
Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers assigned to Air Forces Northern's  National Security Emergency Preparedness Directorate gathered here for their annual Combined Individual Mobilization Augmentee Training Assembly Feb. 23-27.

These officers, the majority who serve as IMA O-6s, are assigned throughout 54 states and territories, 10 Federal Emergency Management Agency regions and higher federal and military-agency headquarters.  Typically activated during a disaster-response event that requires Defense Support of Civil Authorities, they provide information to interagency federal and state-response officials about Air Force assets and capabilities available to assist, along with recommendations on how to best employ them.

Several representatives from agencies who support the IMAs throughout the year were present as well to include those from information technology, Headquarters Air Force Homeland Operations, Air Force Reserve Command and Air Combat Command.

During his opening remarks, Brig. Gen. David Hicks, AFNORTH vice commander, stressed the criticality of the EPLO mission.

"During a crisis, you are that critical information link between the Joint Forces Air Component Commander and federal and state authorities, providing each the optimum situational awareness  needed to make decisions that may ultimately save lives,' he said.  "It's a tremendous undertaking and one each one of you accept with a professionalism and without reservation. Thank you for all you do."

According to Joe Sanders, NSEP's deputy director, the event helps EPLOs maintain skills and get updated information about DSCA procedures and policies along with training on collaborative information-sharing tools. They also accomplish required administrative tasks, such as record updates, physical fitness testing and computer maintenance.

"It's the one time all the EPLOs, typically geographically separated the rest of the year, get together at their home base here at Tyndall," he said. "During this time, we get caught up on required training and host a series of briefings by subject matter experts who provide information updates and any necessary supplemental training. Overall, our ultimate goal is to optimize the EPLOs' ability to most effectively communicate the DSCA mission to state and federal authorities."

Rodney Simmons, NSEP director, said briefing topics are developed based on inputs received from participants in the field throughout the year. Briefings this year included the latest guidance on remotely-piloted aircraft use during a disaster-response event, search and rescue, Civil Air Patrol operations and logistics support.

"There's an immediate sense of camaraderie as we get together and use the opportunity to share our successes, frustrations and questions about events of the past year," he said, and added it's also a time to look at future operations.

Simmons noted along with a review of "the good, the bad and the ugly," participants also attend a banquet, where new EPLOs are welcomed, those with finished EPLO tours are bid farewell and outstanding EPLOs are recognized. 

For Col. Sam Bellia, from FEMA Region II, New York, the annual gathering offers a lot of good information and the banquet is one of the highlights.

"This is a valuable opportunity to meet with leadership and get up to speed about any operational changes in the field,' he said. "But I always like the banquet the best, namely for the recognition it provides."

Col. Christopher Kreig, Regional Reserve Director, FEMA Region II, appreciated the opportunity to network, meet with SMEs and ask questions.

"I thought the medical briefing about Ebola response and the briefing about cyber security were both really eye-opening," he said.  "But the biggest take away for me was to meet the SMEs in person and ask questions about different scenarios and get the most current information about our operations in the field."