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NEWS | April 30, 2007

Exercise Tests Hurricane-Response Plans in Northeastern U.S.

By Gerry J. Gilmore American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - National Guard members today commenced a hurricane emergency preparedness and response exercise involving five states in the northeastern United States, a National Guard Bureau spokesman said.

Code-named HURREX, the 11-day, command-post exercise involves Guard members from Rhode Island , Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York, National Guard spokesman Emanuel Pacheco told American Forces Press Service today.

"This exercise is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of the National Guard as the first military responder to any state crisis," Pacheco said.

A major focus is to test crisis-response coordination between federally controlled military forces and National Guard units, which come under the command of state governors, Peter F. Verga, acting assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense, said during an April 25 interview.

HURREX also tests Guard units' interaction and coordination capabilities with federal disaster-management organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Air National Guard Maj. Philip Nizoloski said today during a phone interview from Quonset State Airport, R.I. Operation Vigilant Guard is the Guard's contribution to the Ardent Sentry and HURREX exercises, he said.

The exercise scenario involves a fictitious Category 3 storm, "Hurricane Yvette," hitting Newport, R.I., Nizoloski said. The tabletop exercise will gauge the effectiveness of state, local and federal agencies' planning and coordinated response to such a catastrophe, he said.

"We're training the command staff and subordinate leaders basically to successfully plan, coordinate and synchronize (disaster relief) efforts during an emergency," Nizoloski explained. HURREX is slated to end May 10.

The hurricane season begins June 1, Nizoloski said, noting the National Guard and its partners are "doing everything we can to prepare."

The hurricane scenario is one among 15 during the overall exercise, he said, which also includes a nuclear-weapon-explosion scenario involving the deployment of more than 2,000 Guard members to Camp Atterbury and the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Indiana.

The Indiana portion of the exercise will test emergency-response capabilities involving the fictitious detonation of a 10-kiloton nuclear device in an urban area, Verga said.

"National Guard soldiers ... will always be the first military forces to respond to an emergency because of their proximity, (and) will then be reinforced by the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosives consequence-management response force in the active-duty force," Verga explained.

The Indiana sites provide "a very realistic environment that'll allow the soldiers to operate in an urban environment and see how they'll have to respond to that kind of emergency," Verga said.