NORFOLK (NNS) -- Six members of the Joint Communications Support Element, headquartered aboard MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., participated in a state-wide exercise that tested communications interoperability between state, local, federal and Department of Defense organizations, Feb. 4-8.
U.S. Northern Command requested JCSE's participation after learning about the command's rapidly deployable communications services.
The exercise was part of USNORTHCOM's Vital Connection program, a series of communications exercises across the U.S., which focus on interoperability in preparation for Defense Support of Civil Authorities missions, or operations that deal with domestic disaster relief operations. This exercise, referred to as Operation Radar II by the Florida Division of Emergency Management, took place Feb. 4 - 8, at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, in Starke, Fla. and included more than 600 individuals from local, state, federal, non-governmental and private emergency response partners.
Operation Radar II used a probable USNORTHCOM DSCA scenario for the state of Florida - back-to-back hurricanes; one from the Atlantic Ocean and one from the Gulf of Mexico, striking within days of each other. The scenario dictated that both hurricanes caused catastrophic damage to critical Florida infrastructure including power outages and extensive communication failures.
As a pre-assigned force under DSCA, JCSE has deployed multiple times to provide essential communications services to domestic crises such as the one depicted during Operation Radar II. Accordingly, JCSE's capabilities were helpful to the exercise.
"[Operation Radar] was as realistic as can be, for training," stated U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Venable, the JCSE lead planner for this exercise. "JCSE already supports real-world natural disaster events, so any training we can get will always help."
Additionally, exercises like Operation Radar II illustrate JCSE's full range of communication capabilities to likely partner organizations that may not have been previously exposed to the command's broad scope of support.
"Operation Radar offered JCSE a great opportunity to demonstrate its flexible and robust communication packages for this Defense Support of Civil Authorities-scenario driven event," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jan Norris, the commander of the 4th Joint Communications Support Squadron, the JCSE squadron which supported this exercise.
JCSE brought an Early Entry Package to support requirements during Operation Radar II which included unclassified network access and phone services. However, to really assess JCSE's full range of capabilities, the team was asked to extend commercial Internet services to a non-governmental organization located in a separate sector of Camp Blanding; a task that was successfully accomplished in less than two hours. The added mobility of this lightweight communications package became an essential capability for the overall execution of the exercise.
"It was quickly apparent that the JCSE Early Entry Package team on the ground was able to respond more quickly and move to mission locations faster with their lightweight, transit case communications kit than other organizations on site," said Norris.
Venable further explained, "Being able to extend services, or even to just relocate, in under two hours provided a large asset that could be utilized with minimum downtime for coordination efforts."
JCSE plans to continue to refine its communication packages to match civilian emergency response capabilities to be better prepared for potential natural disasters across the U.S.
For more news from Joint Enabling Capabilities Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/jecc/.