7th CSC practices response to natural disaster

Story and photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta
7th Civil Support Command Public Affairs, 21st Theater Sustainment Command

GRAFENWÖHR TRAINING AREA, Germany — Reactions were real and responses scrutinized in the aftermath of a simulated earthquake in the fictitious country of Minaria during the foreign consequence management exercise Saber Junction 13 that took place Jan. 13 to 22 at the Joint Multinational Simulation Center, here.

The 10-day command-post exercise was held to train and prepare military personnel and civilians from the 7th Civil Support Command, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, other military units and civilian organizations as an expeditionary joint task force-consequence management team ready to rapidly deploy in response to a future disaster.

“Saber Junction is an exercise that tests the plans that we have for foreign consequence management,” said Brig. Gen. Paul M. Benenati, commander of the 7th Civil Support Command, who served as JTF-CM deputy commander for the exercise.

“We sat down and took a look at a bunch of real-world scenarios and looked at the incidents that have happened both in the United States and abroad in the past 10 or 12 years. We’ve built what we believe is a team and a proper response, and this (exercise) is to test and validate those plans. You never know when one’s going to happen and when one does occur the response has got to be quick.”

The 7th CSC’s mission is to plan and coordinate with U.S. Government agencies and foreign nations in order to rapidly provide a coordinated Department of Defense disaster response to a host nation when requested in support of the U.S. Army Europe and the European Command.

Exercise evaluators and observer controllers were from the Mission Command Training Program, Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

“It is mind boggling, a lot to consume (and) assess in a short period of time, a lot of data,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Hughes, logistics officer, JTF-CM, 7th CSC, “but it’s a learning experience. It’s (about) understanding the whole concept, especially if you’ve never done it before.”

In the exercise scenario, the fictional country of Minaria was devastated by an earthquake, aftershock, chemical spills, fires, leaks, gas clouds and thousands of internally displaced persons.  

“In a case like this the host nation is the one that’s actually responsible and requests us to come in, and they usually give us specific mission guidance specific things that they want us to accomplish,” Benenati said.

Some of the events JTF-CM had to deal with were damage to infrastructure, a nuclear plant, a chemical plant, along with deaths and overcrowding of certain hospitals and diminishing medical supplies.

“I think it is going well,” said Maj. Modou Fye, comptroller, JTF-CM, 7th CSC. “The (commanding general’s) guidance was definitely good. Things you don’t anticipate happen, it throws your rhythm off and you have to adjust.”

During a real-world disaster response the JTF-CM would work with and be lead by the U.S. Embassy in the host nation and also work with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, other U.S. Government agencies as well as nongovernmental organizations.

More than 560 personnel from all the U.S. military services participated in the FCM exercise including personnel in the continental U.S., as well as more than 320 joint service members and civilians at the JMSC.

“It’s a combination, which is good because it’s exactly how we fight,” Benenati said. “It’s a combination of folks from all branches of service, and from all components, which is exactly what’s going to be required as we move forward. We’re all going to have to work together if we’re going to maintain the same capabilities as we got now.”

The 7th CSC utilized the exercise to execute, review and validate existing plans, develop additional guidance and recommend changes to all plans related to FCM within USAREUR.

“We’re trying to, along with the exercise, develop solution sets that will endure long beyond this that can be basically a playbook for what we need in the event that there’s a crisis,” Benenati said.

“The main point on this whole thing is that: We’re testing the plans we are then going to revise the plan and by the time we’re done, we’re going to have a much better much more effective plan than we had before in the eventuality that we’re ever called upon to do this.”