by Tech. Sgt. John Gordinier
Alaskan Command Public Affairs
3/24/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Alaskan
Command and U.S. Army Alaska, along with other federal and state
entities, participated in Exercise Rock and a Hard Place in Homer,
Alaska, March 19 through 22.
Exercise Rock and a Hard Place was a scenario where state and federal
resources responded to assist the community of Homer and the Kenai
Borough following a significant simulated mudslide that damaged the
South Peninsula Hospital in Homer and severed road and communications
lines, said Army Lt. Col. William Kays, Alaskan Command medical
operations and plans director. The mass casualty-causing event required
the rapid medical response of the state's Health and Social Services
emergency response capabilities and the movement of patients from the
damaged hospital to the Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna, Alaska.
The state's Department of Health and Social Services, through
partnership with Alaskan Command, provided an opportunity for Title 10
(active-duty Department of Defense) resources to participate in this
hospital drill, Kays said.
When Title 10 forces provide assistance in natural disaster crisis such
as this, it is called defense support of civil authorities (DSCA).
"DSCA remains an important ALCOM mission, whereas active-duty forces
could be requested by the state to prevent the loss of life, mitigate
suffering and mitigate the loss of property. "This drill allowed us to
work with local and state responders, improve our interoperability and
exercise an element of the federal Alaska disaster response playbook;
specifically, the patient movement courses of action on the Kenai
Peninsula," Kays explained.
U.S. Army Alaska provided patient movement DSCA assistance with two
medevac Black Hawk helicopters operated by crews from C Company, 1st
Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment who are part of the USARAK Aviation
Task Force based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
"The MEDEVAC aircraft deployed and became [tactical control] to the
Alaska Army Guard Aviation Task Force during the exercise," Kays said.
"Following years of back-to-back deployments, the involvement of Title
10 MEDEVAC aircraft in support of response efforts in Alaska will renew
Alaskan Command provided an emergency response vehicle for DSCA support
during the exercise, said Tim Woodall, ALCOM command, control,
communications, and computer systems, joint frequency management
division chief, DoD area frequency coordinator/joint frequency
management office Alaska, and expeditionary communications. The ERV
provides initial 72-hour emergency communications, including land mobile
radio, phone and Internet. For this exercise, those services were
provided to the emergency operations center, triage and state
aeromedical staging facility. The ERV was flown in a C-17 aircraft from
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to Homer, Alaska, along with the ERV
operators--Air Force Senior Master Sgt. John Jennings Jr. and Army Staff
Sgt. Lacey Steward.
"Our involvement in the exercise was a success," said Steward, ALCOM
command, control, communications, and computer systems, deployable
communications NCO in charge. "Despite never setting up our equipment
before in Homer, we were able to set the Rapid Response Kit up, which
provided connectivity for phones and wireless data. We had 15 phones in
the EOC and one in the triage, as well as wireless Internet to both
locations. This gateway provided the ability to track in- and out-bound
patients. In a disaster scenario, the ERV ensures information technology
services to improve disaster response."
"The ERV efforts met the requirements of the customer," said Jennings,
ALCOM command, control, communications, and computer systems plans and
future operations superintendent. "We were able to successfully
demonstrate the air worthiness of the ERV. We identified a generator
limiting factor and identified several process improvements that will
enhance our efficiency and effectiveness when called upon. It's very
important to exercise our capabilities with our partners and seeing that
team come together and be successful increases confidence with or
partners and the community."
"The state conducts medical response exercises a few times annually, but
many do not lend to a Title 10 response," Kays added. "This exact
scenario would not likely require a Title 10 immediate response, but the
exercise provided an opportunity for us to cross-train with our
partners, improve interoperability, and validate elements of the federal
and state disaster response playbook. ALCOM is committed to continued
collaboration with the state and will continue to look for opportunities
to train with our partners."