Military News

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

18th Wing conducts joint NEO exercise with Navy, Army

by Staff Sgt. Marcus Morris
18th Wing Public Affairs

4/13/2015 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Members from the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Army processed 150 families while participating in a joint Non-combatant Evacuation Operation exercise here April 8.

In an Okinawa-wide NEO, evacuees may have to go to the closest NEO point, which may not always be the military branch their family is with, so it is important for the different branches to work together to familiarize themselves with the procedures.

Representatives from finance, the Red Cross, housing and more took dependants and volunteers through the steps needed to take their family from a rally point to being able to board an aircraft to a safe location.

"The purpose of this exercise is to acquaint family members of what the process will be like," said Lorrie Perkins, 18th Force Support Squadron Airmen and Family Readiness Center team lead. "It also lets us practice with real families, so we get an idea of some of the challenges we face [and] we can be better prepared in the eventuality that we have to really do this."

With summer on its way, many new families are being stationed on Kadena Air Base and some of them have never dealt with NEOs and may think they can wait till the last minute to gather paperwork and supplies.

"It's a little easier on people if they understand the process and what might be required ahead of time instead of waiting until a NEO situation comes about and try to put stuff together," said Col. Debra Lovette, 18th Mission Support Group commander. "We are trying to decrease that stress level [for] when a NEO actually happens by letting people know what's available, what they might need to get out of town and what they should be thinking about before they actually do any of it."

While some key items vary from family to family, one important item for any family is passports.

"Once they get into the NEO process, it is very likely they are going to require a passport to get wherever it is they are going next, so that is absolutely an essential to have," Lovette said. "Some families require [certain] medical supplies, those are kind of critical because you don't really know how long it's going to take to get to a location that can resupply your medical needs, so you have to think through how long you might need to have a supply on hand."

For families with kids, it is important to note they will have to wait in line multiple places or be sitting in a queue for a while, so it is recommended to bring electronics, chargers and other entertainment or snacks. It is advised people bring enough food for three days per person. Ideally, they'll never have to tap into that, because there will be a plan in place -- but plans are subject to change.

Perkins said each person is allowed a suitcase weighing 25 pounds, so it is important to figure out what is worth bringing and what can be left behind.

Another important item to have prepared is an NEO folder and to make sure one of the NEO wardens or unit representatives assigned to the squadron has an updated map to the dependant's or other non-combatant's home, if they cannot contact them by phone.

"A lot of the paperwork in the folders is pretty easy to keep and update as you go," Lovette said. "Things change, so it is important to have it put together now when you have time because it is pretty thorough."

The 18th Wing usually conducts a NEO exercise twice a year, but they are looking at increasing the frequency of exercises depending on how much more the other services will participate.

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