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NEWS | May 29, 2014

Guyana military partners observe Florida National Guard’s role in hurricane exercise

By Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa Florida National Guard

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - The Florida National Guard lent emergency management expertise to its partner nation of Guyana recently, as three members of the Guyana Defence Force visited north Florida to observe a hurricane preparedness exercise.

The Guyana Defense Force (GDF) personnel toured the Florida National Guard's Joint Operations Center in St. Augustine and the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee during their visit to the U.S., May 19-22. The tour coincided with the state's annual hurricane exercise which simulated emergency response efforts to manage an evolving hurricane in Florida.

Because Guyana is one of the Florida National Guard's State Partnership Program (SPP) nations, its military has a unique opportunity to capitalize on Florida's already solid emergency response procedures, said SPP Coordinator Lt. Col. Paul Hill.

"They want to learn disaster management and disaster preparedness because of their natural issues with flooding," Hill said, noting that Guyana faces flooding concerns similar to Florida. "They come to us for advisement and exchange of information."

On May 20 the GDF officers watched as Soldiers, Airmen and Department of Military Affairs civilians handled the response to a simulated storm that makes landfall in Florida four separate times by following a track similar to Tropical Storm Fay in 2008. As part of the simulation, more than 7,000 Florida National Guard personnel were called by the state for response efforts, including logistics, transportation and aviation support.

After observing the seemingly "controlled chaos" of the St. Augustine Joint Operations Center, the GDF's Lt. Col. Nazrul Hussain said he was impressed with the structure of the emergency management process. As Soldiers and Airmen exchanged information and examined situation reports during the exercise, the Guyanese officers learned how multiple military and civilian agencies can work smoothly together to mitigate the effects of a disaster.

"It is good to know that there are structures and there are templates that we can probably follow to improve the system that we have," Hussain said, noting that the GDF's disaster response training can benefit greatly from the Florida visit.

When a notional situation report during the exercise alerted the emergency operations staff that "a Florida Guardsman was injured in an accident," the entire center stopped to listen and discuss how best to handle the fictitious event. GDF's Lt. John Chester Inniss remarked that he was intrigued by the idea of training on how disasters can affect the military personnel who actually take part in the response.

"I have never observed that in our exercises, so that is one of the things that I will take back," Inniss said. Since the Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1, the Guyanese visit to the hurricane exercise was well-timed to show off the state's assets for disaster response.

During the upcoming hurricane season, the Florida National Guard can mobilize about 9,000 personnel to perform a range of emergency management services from search and rescue, to area security and logistics support. Their essential tasks under the direction of emergency managers are: protect life and property; maintain peace, order and public safety; and provide support to local, state and federal emergency responders.

The Florida National Guard has maintained a partnership with Guyana since 2003.