March 10, 2016 –
FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico - Saving lives, preventing human suffering and mitigating property damage; these are the three main points that were reiterated during a Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) 101 brief held at the 1st Mission Support Command (MSC) Headquarters, on Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, March 10.
In 2012, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorized the Army Reserve to provide disaster relief and emergency management in support of civil authorities, presenting a significant opportunity for the Army Reserve to meet the needs of local communities during times of disaster.
During Superstorm Sandy, this new authority was exercised by the 401st, 410th and 431st Quartermaster Teams as they processed through Joint Base MDL to become the first-ever Army Reserve units to be activated in response to a domestic natural disaster under the 2012 NDAA.
“It is real exciting for me, as an Army Reserve leader on the military side, to have a command that’s so engaged and so interested in this critical mission set,” said Mr. Todd Liebig, Region 2 Army Reserve Civil Military Projects Officer. “This is one of the 1st MSC’s priorities to maintain readiness, resilience and relevance as leaders of these Soldiers here to respond globally with capabilities across the world.”
Over 70 Army Reserve leaders from across the island, from the 1st MSC and non-aligned units, gathered to participate in this training. For some, this is the first time they actually got a clear understanding of how DSCA and Immediate Response Authority (IRA) actually work.
Educating leaders on all levels on how and when IRA can be used and how DSCA works is essential for ensuring everything that is done, is done legally. During the brief, Staff Sgt. Christopher Cole, Operations Noncommissioned Officer from the 346th Transportation Company, expressed how helpful the training has been for him.
“I thought this was very helpful because we’re one of the main facilities over on the eastside of the island and I’ve never had an understanding on the strategic level of planning like this for natural disasters or any kind of event that may pop-up,” said Cole. “I think it’s good to have an understanding at the unit level, that way we’ll be able to actually work with the community and with the government a lot quicker.” Cole plans on sharing this training with his Soldiers to ensure the information gets down to the lowest level possible and its able to assist the community effectively if the need arises.
The DSCA 101 brief provided to the 1st MSC leaders was intended to make everyone aware of their roles when and if a natural disaster occurs and if local community leaders request assistance.
“I expect them to establish a very baseline of knowledge about DSCA and use that baseline in order to expand their overall knowledge of DSCA though the electronic based distance learning and then through their command channels in order to prioritize, develop and actually execute some DSCA related training,” said Mr. Robert Stabb, an emergency management specialist with USARC’s Homeland Operations Division.
Through several practical exercises, the groups were able to identify what kind of situations allowed them to execute their IRA in accordance to DSCA. With units readily available on the island that possess unique capabilities to assist local and federal responders, it is important to identify these assets in a set plan before disaster strikes.
“This is a great step in the right direction in terms of maximizing assets and getting engineer units or transportation units that have logistical capabilities to incorporate into the local community and get things done,” said 1st Lt. Luis E. Reyes, HHC Executive Officer for the 448th Engineer Company.
Brig. Gen. Alberto C. Rosende, commanding general for the 1st MSC, emphasized the need for this training to be pushed to the lowest level. “We need to be able to push down the training to the company and detachment level so we all understand the IRA,” said Rosende. “The organic capabilities of the 1st MSC can prove to be critical as a component of an organized response to any emergency on Puerto Rico. The training we have completed has better postured our leadership to provide much needed capability utilizing the Immediate Response Authority available to us, or through assigned missions as directed.”
As the Senior Responsible Officer for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Rosende recognizes that the non-aligned units also bear capabilities that should be considered when preparing the 1st MSC Disaster Response Plan. “We need to look at those units that are non-aligned to the 1st MSC but can bring an awful lot of capabilities to the commonwealth,” concluded Rosende.
Mr. Damian Mercado, Supervisory Staff Administrator for the 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion, thought the DSCA 101 training was very useful for his unit considering that the 402nd doesn't belong to the 1st MSC. " As the SSA for the 402nd, it was helpful to see that future missions for disastrous events can involve all reserve units, including us at the 402nd," said Mercado. "Being able to react to these types of natural incidents and recognize that mission readiness and being fully mission capable are crucial when responding to these events is very important."