Friday, October 20, 2017

Army Corps of Engineers Surveys Florida’s Hurricane Recovery Needs

By Patrick N. Moes, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District

EVERGLADES CITY, Fla., Oct. 20, 2017 — The Hurricane Irma-caused storm surge of around eight feet brought catastrophic destruction to this community and specifically Fisherman Cove’s mobile home park here.

The water that caused the destruction has receded, but the scars are visible. Home after home bears the spray-painted words “demo” as an indication that the home is no longer habitable and is slated for demolition.


“Devastation is devastation, regardless if it’s on a small scale or a big scale,” said Steve Harris, a quality assurance inspector with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Huntington District. Harris and three of his co-workers were at the mobile home park Oct. 18 to conduct site inspections.

Their report, once complete, will be submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help determine if temporary housing options are available to storm survivors.

The Huntington District team, which also includes Travis Wilson, Jason Freeman, and Anita Bradburn, are focusing their attention on Florida’s Collier, Hendry and Lee counties.

The team is looking at every aspect of the site to determine whether there are any barriers that would prohibit a temporary home being brought to the location. The team also looks for water and sewer lines and maps out the size of the area.

Harris said the team has looked at hundreds of sites since arriving to support the recovery efforts. He said he’s found the homeowners to be very grateful.

“They just want a little bit of hope,” Harris said.

Wilson said the people he’s encountered have lost everything but are appreciative for the help.

“It’s great to see the impact of our work,” he said. “I plan to be here as long as they need us here, as long as these people need help.”

Harris agreed as he looked over the damage and said, “You can’t help but feel personally attached to these people.”

Dunford Calls USO a Vital Link Between Troops, America

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2017 — The USO provides a vital connection between service members, their families, and ultimately the American people, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at the USO Gala last night.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford thanked the USO for all it has done and continues to do to support service members in the United States and around the world.

The gala marked USO’s 76th year. The nonprofit organization has a small professional staff and 30,000 volunteers worldwide.

A Bit of Home

The chairman thanked the USO volunteers for their tireless efforts, noting the USO provides a bit of home to service members, Dunford said.

“One of the great things we have an opportunity to do is go out on a holiday [USO] tour and last year we actually did two,” the chairman said.

The first tour was to Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan and Germany and was a few weeks before the holiday season. But Dunford felt it was important for USO performers to actually be entertaining troops on Christmas Day, and he asked USO President J.D. Crouch if it could be done.

It didn’t look good, as the holidays are often the only time entertainers get a break, but Crouch was able to get Kellie Pickler and her husband singer-songwriter Kyle Jacobs, the Roastmaster General -- comedian Jeff Ross -- and Chef Robert Irvine and his wife wrestler Gail Kim to give up their holiday season to bring a bit of home to U.S. troops deployed in Iraq.

Christmas Eve USO Show in Baghdad

The troupe did a Christmas Eve show in Baghdad and then four shows in various parts of Iraq on Christmas Day. “The one I remember best was in Q-West [Qayyarah Airfield West],” the chairman said. “It’s about 15 kilometers south of Mosul -- certainly at that time our most austere outpost.”

There was still some fighting around the area and service members were still removing ISIS improvised explosive devices from areas on the base. It also didn’t help that the base had had five days of rain, and the area where the stage was mud overlaid by gravel.

But the entertainers were excited about going there and bringing some Christmas to the soldiers at the post, Dunford said. The chairman said he will not forget the faces of the soldiers as the entertainers took the stage.

Dunford and Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman, stood in the back, but the chairman asked the soldiers what they thought of the show. “They’d say, ‘Sir, for a couple of minutes I forgot I was here,’” he said. “What an extraordinary impact.”

USO’s Impact

But the USO’s impact goes way beyond entertainment, Dunford said. The USO rushed supplies and personnel to aid the sailors affected by the accidents to the USS Fitzgerald and the USS McCain.

They opened a USO at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey that quickly became the most-visited facility in Europe, he said.

They opened USO facilities in Iraq, and the organization maintained the USO lounges at airports, the chairman said.

All this adds up, the chairman said. “We’ve been at war for 16 years,” Dunford said. “I don’t think any of us 16 years ago thought we could continue with an all-volunteer force after 16 years at war and, frankly, no end in sight, we could continue to recruit and retain the high-quality force that we have today. I’m not sure we thought we would have people with the same commitment, the same courage, the same professionalism after 16 years of war.

“There are many reasons for that, but one of the reasons is that our young men and women know that what they do is appreciated,” he continued. “They are proud of what they do and they know you are proud of what they do.”

There are a lot of organizations in the United States that send that message, “but there isn’t another organization out there that does it better than the USO,” the chairman said.

U.S., Philippine Airmen Join Forces for Pacific Responder 17

By Air Force Airman 1st Class Christopher Quail 36th Wing

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam, Oct. 20, 2017 — Airmen with the 36th Contingency Response Group and the Philippine air force members participated in the first Pacific Responder exercise held here Sept. 23-29, 2017.

The weeklong exercise focused on leadership planning and disaster response execution. Subject matter experts in the fields of command and control, security forces, engineering assistance, structures and aircraft maintenance came together to exchange their experiences and expertise.

Improving Interoperability

“The main objectives are to improve U.S. and Philippine interoperability, gaining understanding of the humanitarian aid and disaster relief response procedures and to focus on leadership planning,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Carlo Narvasa, 36th CRG flight chief of operations.

Throughout the week, the subject matter experts exchanged knowledge and ideas through hands-on exercises and discussions on U.S. and Philippine air force expertise. Each squadron within the 36th CRG welcomed the Philippine air force representatives with demonstrations of their capabilities.

Airmen from the 36th Mobility Response Squadron set up displays of equipment ranging from forklifts to all-terrain vehicles for the first visit. Philippine airmen toured the 736th Security Forces Squadron on the second stop, including the operations cell, which is responsible for coordinating plans, training, movements and communications.

The 644th Combat Communications Squadron set up displays of equipment including radios and antennas. Lastly, the 554th RED HORSE [Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers] Squadron demonstrated their construction equipment and capabilities.

“Now I better understand the capabilities of the 36th CRG and their criteria for disaster response,” said Philippine air force Capt. Jean Bibon, 15th Strike Wing helicopter pilot. “After this exercise, I know that in times of a natural disaster, we will be able to come together and work more efficiently.”

Earthquake Scenario

The exercise concluded with a table top scenario that put participant’s skills into practice. The scenario simulated responding to a major earthquake that struck the Philippines with a 7.1 magnitude.

“At the end of the week, it was clear that strong relationships were built between the U.S. and Philippine participants,” said Air Force Capt. Rachelle Crespo, 36th CRG air advisor. “PAF utilized the knowledge provided by their U.S. Air Force counterparts during the final exercise and debrief.”

The 36th CRG intends to expand the framework of the Pacific Responder exercise, to include other partner nations and allies for four more exercises until 2021. Building strong partnerships and exchanging expertise benefits the U.S. and partner nations by enabling them to better respond together when the time arises.

“Pacific Responder 17 allowed us to increase our understanding of how the 36th CRG squadrons conduct HA/DR [humanitarian aid and disaster relief] here on Guam,” said Philippine air force Maj. Hazel C. Bracamonte, 602nd Aerodrome Operations Squadron commander. “The knowledge gained opens up the doors for improvement of current HA/DR procedures and work relationship among PAF and the U.S. Air Force.”