Tuesday, August 21, 2007

NORTHCOM ready to help save lives

U.S. Northern Command officials continue to monitor the progress of Hurricane Dean and are working closely with the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Guard and the state of Texas on hurricane response preparations.

"While we remain fully engaged in defense of the homeland, our collective Department of Defense capabilities and resources will be utilized for significant events such as hurricanes and other natural disaster contingency operations," said Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., the NORTHCOM commander.

"We can help save lives, mitigate suffering and prevent property loss," the general said.

NORTHCOM members continue to respond to requests for DOD support in preparation for Hurricane Dean's possible landfall in the United States.

The staff at NORTHCOM has deployed the following people to support the federal response:

-- The Region VI Defense coordinating officer, or DCO, and a six-person Defense coordinating element, called DCE, deployed to Corpus Christi, Texas, at FEMA's request prior to landfall of Tropical Storm Erin. The DCO and DCE have moved to Austin, Texas, where they are co-located with FEMA and other responding agency assets.

-- The Region X DCO and DCE deployed to Baton Rouge, La., at FEMA's request to assist the Region VI DCO.

-- A joint regional medical planner deployed to Austin to support the Region VI DCO.

-- A 17-person team from Standing Joint Forces Headquarters-North deployed from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., to Texas. Ten people will support the Region VI DCO in Austin; seven members will support Army North at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

-- An eight-person Joint Patient Movement Team from Scott AFB, Ill., deployed to Austin to help coordinate aeromedical evacuation efforts.

-- A Joint Interagency Air-Ground Coordination Team from Tyndall AFB, Fla., deployed to Austin at FEMA's request to assist FEMA and the Texas Emergency Operations Center and to help with aeromedical evacuation and search and rescue efforts.

-- The Region II DCO and DCE deployed to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Aug. 15 where they supported a FEMA Emergency Response Team-Advance. Those members are redeploying to their home station in New York.

Should active-duty forces be requested to respond for hurricane operations, the regional DCOs will provide their command and control and will also facilitate requests for any additional DOD support through NORTHCOM.

"Local and state officials, in concert with the National Guard, are the first line responders," General Renuart said, "but USNORTHCOM is prepared to respond in support of the needs of the state and we are anticipating the kinds of capabilities they might require."

NORTHCOM officials are coordinating with FEMA, DHS and the National Guard to ensure full situational awareness and an appropriate response posture to Hurricane Dean.

"We have created stronger ties with our National Guard and civilian agency partners with mutual understanding, respect and appreciation of each others' missions, capabilities and practices," General Renuart said.

NORTHCOM supports civilian federal agencies as part of a comprehensive national response plan to manage consequences of natural or man-made disasters. The command staff remains vigilant to anticipate, deter, detect and defeat threats to the homeland and is prepared to prevent any attempt to exploit this crisis.