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Sound the Alarm: Marine Corps leadership prepares for upcoming natural disaster response in first conjoined summit

By Cpl. Fenton Reese | | June 27, 2013


Due to the increased military participation in natural disaster response over the past decade in events such as Hurricane “Irene,” super storm “Sandy,” and the wildfires in Colorado, preparation for another catastrophe is of great priority to the Marine Corps, according to Col. Bradley E. Weisz, Marine Forces North chief of staff.

Representatives from  major U.S. Marine Corps headquarters based in the U.S., gathered at the Marine Forces Reserve and MARFORNORTH headquarters, June 19-20, in support of the first Marine Corps led Defense Support of Civil Authorities working group to discuss and synchronize natural disaster response efforts, review current operational requirements and prepare for the upcoming hurricane and wildland fire season.

DSCA is the Department of Defense's support, to include Federal military forces, for domestic emergencies, special events and missions to provide support during domestic activities as directed by the President of the United States or the Secretary of Defense. 

The DoD performs DSCA as part of the federal component of a national response framework, in cooperation with other federal, state, local and tribal agencies during domestic emergencies or events. 

 Preparing for DSCA missions is important because it ensures DoD military forces are trained, educated, prepared and ready to respond to domestic incidents and national security emergencies, said Wiesz.

“This was an extremely valuable evolution.  DSCA, particularly in large or catastrophic incidents crossing multiple jurisdictions and requiring response across multiple lines of operation, will almost certainly be an exceedingly complex operation,” said Wiesz. “It is important that Marine commanders and their staffs understand and respect the needs, capabilities, jurisdictions and authorities of the many participants in a unified, all-discipline, all-hazards response to a domestic incident, in order to maximize and most effectively coordinate their contributions to the supported civil authorities as part of a larger response.”

Over the two-day span, representatives from Headquarters Marine Corps, Marine Forces Command, Marine Forces Pacific Command, I Marine Expeditionary Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force, MARFORRES and MARFORNORTH laid out their respective plans and capabilities for disaster response. Throughout the course of the presentations, all attendees gave their analysis and creative criticisms in an effort to weed out deficiencies and enhance operational productivity when the time comes for employment.

Additionally, representatives were afforded the opportunity to build professional and personal relationships for future operations through these discussions.

“The primary benefit from these types of working groups is the opportunity to develop and maintain close personal relationships.  The ability to develop tight personal networks and habitual relationships are the keys to success for DSCA operations…Knowing who you are working for, knowing who you are working with and knowing their capabilities and limitations goes a long way in fighting through the friction, confusion and fog-of-war inherent in DSCA operations,” said Weisz.  “No one does it better than the Marine Corps, but we must constantly evaluate ourselves, give ourselves a good internal look and see if we can find ways to do it even better. You cannot get complacent in DSCA; it will eat you up real quick.”

Maj. John T. Berdusis, plans officer for MARFORNORTH, agreed with Weisz on the value and benefits of developing these working groups.

“You get an idea of what our counterparts are thinking. We get to see how our counterparts do business and synchronize our efforts,” said Berdusis. “The goal is, when called upon, to rapidly deploy Marines to support civil authorities during times of disasters.”

At the conclusion of the evolution, the group did a final review of efficiencies and deficiencies to take back to their respective commands, as well as a compact disc containing all the presentations and plans from each section for further analysis.

There is no set date for the next meeting; however, this is just the beginning, according to Weisz.

“This was a great first start, but we still have a long way to go,” said Weisz. “Ultimately, we intend to transition this working group into an annual conference that takes place just prior to the hurricane and wildland fire seasons.”

Weisz thanked all the representatives for attending the historic working group. He said he thinks this was a very beneficial event, and he is ready for future meetings and operations.

“Without a doubt, this was an extremely valuable evolution,” he said.

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