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NEWS | Sept. 19, 2018

Army Reserve lawyers support emergency operations during Hurricane Florence

By Rick Scavetta U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command

As Hurricane Florence made landfall in the Carolinas on Sept. 14, U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command Soldiers were ready to provide military support to civil authorities during emergency operations. 

Soldiers from 213th, 87th and 6th Legal Operations Detachments were mobilized to provide legal assistance to Defense Support for Civil Authorities, Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Northern Command in Colorado, and local civil authorities in North Carolina and South Carolina.

U.S. law permits states to request federal assets, including the military, to assist in the response to certain disasters in support of DSCA, said Maj. Benjamin Taylor, USAR-LC’s program manager.

“More than two dozen judge advocates from [USAR-LC] work in each of the 10 FEMA regions, providing legal support to defense coordinator officers or DCOs,” Taylor said.

USAR-LC is no stranger to providing support during hurricanes. In 2017, USAR-LC mobilized nine officers for hurricane support in Puerto Rico and Texas. 

In Raleigh, North Carolina, Maj. Ralph Bailey, a judge advocate from the 213th LOD, is assigned to review mission assignments from the regional Defense Coordinating Element. In his civilian life, Bailey works for the Social Security Administration. This is his first DSCA mission, since completing his training for emergencies in May.

“It’s enlightening. I’ve seen the entire process now, how the state requests [Department of Defense]) assets,” said Bailey, a Kentucky native who now calls Atlanta home.

In North Carolina, flooding is a concern. Rain soaked the area when Florence made landfall, closing most schools and restaurants. More than two dozen mission assignments came in. For example, in one mission civilian officials asked for help evacuating children from a school. The Marines went to help, Bailey said. 

“That was a real-world mission. It means a lot knowing I’m helping support. It doesn’t have to be an enemy overseas. It’s right here and I’m glad to be doing my part.”

Meanwhile, in Columbia, South Carolina, Maj. Michael Madsen, an officer from the 87th Legal Operations Detachment, worked with defense coordinating officers and the South Carolina National Guard. His role was also to check for legal implications when requests for military support came in. 

Madsen, who mobilized to Puerto Rico last year during hurricane season, said his region was less impacted, so the requests for military help were few. 

“But it’s awesome to be a part of this, to help fellow Americans in their time of greatest need. I’m very impressed with the people of South Carolina, how they were prepared and their ability to respond.”

U.S. Army Legal Command, located in Gaithersburg, Maryland, exercises mission command and control of trained and ready legal forces across 104 cities in 43 states in the continental U.S., Puerto Rico, and Europe. USARLC is a one-star command of over 1,700 Soldiers that controls the operations of 28 Legal Operations Detachments providing multi-functional legal support to commanders, Soldiers, and family members in support of military operations.