Service Members Prepare for Humanitarian, Disaster Missions

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam --

The USNS Comfort hospital ship is steaming toward Puerto Rico; U.S. Navy and Marine Corps rescue helicopters are helping to evacuate people in Dominica; countless National Guardsmen were called upon after hurricanes wreaked havoc in Texas and Florida. Whether in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency domestically, or the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) internationally, the need for comprehensive civil-military coordination training for disaster relief operations is more urgent than ever.

More than 100 Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Marines sharpened their civil-military coordination skills during the Humanitarian Assistance Response Training (HART) course held Sept. 26-29 on Ford Island.

Hosted by the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (CFE-DM), the HART course prepares United States military commanders and their staff to respond more effectively during civilian-led humanitarian assistance and foreign disaster response missions.

“Close [civil-military] coordination is certainly essential in an operational environment where many civilians are suffering and facing increased potential for a humanitarian crisis,” said Lt. Gen. Bryan Fenton, deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Command, in his opening remarks. “Learning how to coordinate, collaborate, and in the end, share operational space with our civilian counterparts is essential for the success of a disaster relief mission.”

The four-day, operational-level course focused on applying the military planning and decision-making process to the unique circumstances associated with a foreign humanitarian assistance operation. Experts from organizations such as the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, World Food Programme and International Federation of Red Cross served as guest instructors to provide guidance and best practices from realworld disaster response cases.

“These are the subject matter experts from their respective agencies,” said Capt. Lisa Pearse, M.D., director of Global Health Engagement, Navy Environmental and Preventative Medicine Unit Six.

“They provide us the benefit of their actual experience in those response operations as our civilian counterparts, and by being here, we can meet them and ask them questions. That’s a huge benefit.”

Participants of the course employ realistic scenarios and existing plans to develop a concept of operations for a joint task force response to a major disaster in the Asia-Pacific region, which they brief on the last day. Case studies, small group practical applications, and role-playing exercises enhance lectures by civilian and military experts.

The HART course is taught a dozen times annually, once on Oahu to U.S. Pacific Command and component command staff; the remaining courses are conducted in Okinawa, Fort Lewis and other locations throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

“It is through efficient and effective coordination that lives are saved and communities can start rebuilding,” said Joseph Martin, CFE-DM director.