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NEWS | July 29, 2022

Army Reserve division remains vigilant for disaster response

By Staff Sgt. Shawn Morris 99th Readiness Division

Natural and man-made disasters occur throughout the United States, having a wide range of severe effects depending upon the size and scope of the incident and area of impact.

Incidents larger in scope and size can exceed the capabilities of local, tribal, state, and non-military federal responders, and can have catastrophic effects such as loss of life, injuries and damage to property.

In order to remain ready to assist in such emergencies, the Army Reserve's 99th Readiness Division hosts periodic staff exercises to ensure it is prepared to conduct crisis management operations and support units conducting Defense Support of Civil Authorities operations.

"The purpose of the STAFFEX is to bring together all directorates within the 99th RD and exercise emergency response operations at the headquarters level, while operating as a subordinate unit to U.S. Army Reserve Command during a likely threat within our area of responsibilities," explained Capt. Jared Shoemaker, DSCA planner for the 99th RD. "The 99th plays a critical role in these types of emergency operations as we organically possess, and have an influence on, critical response assets in the northeastern United States to include personnel, equipment, and facilities, all of which are essential response capabilities that our federal, state and local partners can utilize to save lives, prevent human suffering and mitigate great property damage."

The most recent 99th STAFFEX was held this past May at division headquarters here. It was designed to challenge the 99th RD staff in an emergency operations environment, measuring the staffs’ ability to work together as well as with U.S. Army Reserve Command, potential mission partners, and other agencies.

"The STAFFEX assisted us in honing staff battle drills, developing a concept of operations and refining standard operating procedures," said Don Carter, deputy G3 for the 99th RD. "Many directors also took this opportunity to have their supervisors serve in primary staff positions. This exercise provided the staff with professional development and also the opportunity to deal with other staff sections they may not normally engage with."

This particular STAFFEX was especially productive as it was embedded with a similar exercise at U.S. Army Reserve Command.

"We were planning our own STAFFEX when the opportunity to join the USARC Crisis Action Team Exercise came up," explained Col. John Wildermann, G3 for the 99th RD. "We moved the exercise one month early so we could participate. We established a “white cell” to run the exercise and to coordinate with the USARC “white cell.” We also requested observer controller/trainers from the Army Reserve's 78th Training Division to provide feedback and an after-action review from the training.

"Synchronizing our exercise with USARC’s CATEX added some realism to the event, as we wouldn’t stand up our Crisis Action Team without having a higher headquarters to work with," Wildermann added.

The Army Reserve has been authorized to provide Defense Support of Civil Authorities for the past decade, since the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act was passed shortly before the 1,000-mile-wide juggernaut known as Superstorm Sandy tore its way across the eastern seaboard of the United States.

The Army Reserve’s relief efforts in the wake of Sandy marked the first time this new authority was tested. The 99th played a large part in this response, providing mission-essential items such as waste-water pumps, military vehicles, tents, heaters, generators, cold- and wet-weather gear, and rations to Army Reserve units heading into New York City to provide disaster relief.

The 99th also reopened the Fort Tilden Army Reserve Center in New York City to aid the residents of nearby towns affected by Sandy, especially the seaside community of Breezy Point where more than 300 homes were destroyed by fire and flood waters. Many federal, state and local agencies occupied the Tilden facility in an effort to provide aid to local communities.

Today, the 99th continues to play a large role in potential DSCA operations as the 99th commanding general is the Army Reserve's senior geographic commander for the northeast, and also serves as the senior commander for regional response and support activities such as DSCA.

"This STAFFEX was important because it provided an environment where we could bring together all directorates in the same place to focus on emergency response operations," Shoemaker said. "The STAFFEX allowed us as a division headquarters to develop standard operating procedures, find ways to streamline communications, prioritize and identify reporting requirements, and identify friction points.

"This exercise also identified the ways in which we can support our local, state and federal partners in emergency response, making the 99th RD better positioned to execute a division-level Emergency Operations Center in the event of a large-scale incident within the northeast U.S.," he added.