Preparation Sets Stage for Effective Crisis Response

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Story Number: NNS140401-26Release Date: 4/1/2014 11:10:00 PM

From Expeditionary Strike Group 2 Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines from several East Coast-based expeditionary commands conducted an in port maritime staff exercise onboard USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) March 27-31 to refine their collective ability to respond to crises.

The exercise scenario tested the group's evaluation of, and response to, a large scale earthquake on the border of Maine and Canada. It addition, it set the stage for the collaboration of local, national and international civilian and military agencies to develop a swift plan to alleviate resultant human suffering.

Incorporating scenario injects from an extension of U.S. Northern Command's West Coast exercise Ardent Sentry; Expeditionary Strike Group 2 (ESG 2), Amphibious Squadron 8, Tactical Air Squadron 22, Fleet Surgical Team 8, and elements of Naval Beach Group 2 validated and refined tactics, techniques and procedures to embark a ship, conduct crisis response planning, and effectively respond as a contingency deployer.

It's not just the content of the exercise that's valuable, it's the timing," said Cmdr. Lance Lesher, ESG 2's operations officer. "The latter part of the year brings hurricane season; so we train now to better execute later."

The exercise is an element on a continuum of planning, training and operating to ensure expeditionary commands remain aligned and ready to execute missions on an accelerated timeline.

In January, the team partook in academic instruction on planning given by the Naval War College. Earlier this month, a broader group of forces to include Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, II Marine Expeditionary Force and U.S. Fleet Forces combined with civilian crisis response organizations such as Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. They aligned expectations and capabilities regarding humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and Defense Support of Civil Authorities.

"It is like a game of chess - complex, strategic and has lots of moveable pieces," said Lt. Jason Switzer, Fleet Surgical Team 8's medical regulatory control officer. "We each bring specialized expertise to ensure we make the right moves at the right time to promote the most positive impact."

The expeditionary force frequently partners to conduct crisis response to include the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the 2012 flooding in Pakistan and relief efforts following Hurricane Sandy. Per directive by Fleet Forces, ESG 2 is the primary response coordinator for foreign humanitarian aid and disaster relief while NECC leads support efforts for national crises, otherwise known as DSCA.

To heighten the realism of the exercise's decision-making process, the event was conducted onboard amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima, which is a likely flagship platform type for embarking ESG 2. As a flag-led staff, ESG 2 enhances response capabilities.

"An embarked admiral brings a higher level of visibility and authority," said Lt. Cmdr. Jason Ray, exercise operations officer. "It also provides an immediate indicator of our level of commitment to the operation."

In addition to enhancing processes and procedures, the exercise also enhances partnerships.

"The training not only allows us to validate our processes, it builds the camaraderie necessary to work together smoothly," said Lt. Cmdr. Betsy Hill, ESG 2's assistant C5I officer. "Not once did I hear someone say that isn't my job - to be effective, it's all of our jobs and that mentality made this a successful evolution."

In addition to overseeing and managing the readiness of the amphibious fleet; ESG 2 is a joint, rapid and robust deployable staff which supports the entire range of military operations from theater security cooperation events, to major combat operations, to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief from the East Coast of the United States, to the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf.

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