WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Over the past three weeks, the Navy Installations Command and U.S. Fleet Forces Command conducted an exercise to test their hurricane preparedness, which would not have been possible without the support of more than 50 members of reserve components throughout the Navy's Installations Command.
This exercise was essential to both the active component and the reserve component. Reservists were able to establish or refresh relationships with their active duty counterparts, and exercise their roles in response to a significant event affecting our installations.
Rear Adm. Matt O'Keefe, reserve deputy commander, Navy installations command, served as the CNIC led for the first two weeks of the exercise. He noted the importance of the reserve component in achieving mission success.
"The scenario for Citadel Gale 2018 was extremely complex. Exercise Hurricane Cora brought the destructive force of Andrew, the catastrophic flooding of Harvey, and the recovery challenges of Katrina to one of the largest Fleet concentration areas in the country. Every aspect of hurricane preparation and recovery was stressed from evacuation and accountability processes to continuity of operations and recovery missions in the affected areas," said O'Keefe. "And in this demanding environment, reserve component Sailors answered the call supporting operations at the installations, the affected Regions, and the headquarters. Our Navy and our nation's response to these types of catastrophic events heavily rely on the reserve component. In Citadel Gale 2018, the RC proved once again that we are Ready Now."
One of the most prominent roles played by reservists was that of the Navy emergency preparedness liaison officer (NEPLO), whose job is establishing and maintaining relationships with government and civilian leaders essential for disaster response. This ensures that when a disaster happens, the NEPLO is able to start immediately coordinating with the appropriate entities to both provide and receive support. During the exercise, 31 NEPLOs were activated or simulated to support the disaster response.
"When a disaster happens it's too late to be establishing relationships and learning the material," said Capt. Tom Ryer, commander of the NEPLO program. "The NEPLOs have to be ready to go, have those relationship established."
The reserve force also supported at each of the regions, including CNIC headquarters. Capt. Moira McCarthy, commanding officer, Navy reserve commander, Navy installations command, highlighted the value that her reserve team was able to add at CNIC's headquarters during HURREX.
"We have a broad demographic of people that we bring into the headquarters unit with a very diverse skillset," said McCarthy. "They are really good at asking different types of questions. We are looking at things both from the way we have been trained in the military and how we work in our civilian lives; we leverage both skillsets to solve problems."
All of the Navy Regions along the East coast participated in the exercise and stood up their crisis action teams (CAT) in order to prepare for the storm and respond to the damage caused in its wake. In each of the CATs, reserve members had crucial roles in the collection of information and requests for support.
Installations in Navy region mid-Atlantic were most affected by the simulated storm and Aviation Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Liz Barahona and Yeoman 2nd Class Vivian Rivera were heavily relied upon to maintain information flow.
"ABH1 Barahona and YN2 Rivera were integrated with the Active Duty personnel in planning, training, and incident responses," said Lt. Cmdr. Erwin Sabile, executive officer of Navy reserve commander, Navy region mid-Atlantic. "They helped support commands in establishing incident objectives, strategies, and established tactics and directional operational resources to all mid-Atlantic units affected by the hurricane."
Although commander, Navy region southeast (CNRSE) didn't have as large of a role in the exercise, they were able to refresh their memory on some lessons learned from last year's hurricane season where they dealt with both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.
Senior Chief Master-at-Arms Matthew Kindermann was a part of the CNRSE team that responded to Hurricane Irma last summer and noted the value of having previous experience working a hurricane like this simulated storm.
"The installations depend on us to be 20 steps ahead and ready to pull strings at a moment's notice," said Kindermann. "It helps to have those strings in place in order to support the Installation to the fullest extent possible."
Within the Navy installations command there are 3,500 reservists providing support daily in various capacities. Reserve Sailors add an additional layer of preparedness to the shore enterprise by bringing their civilian experience and expertise to their active duty supported commands.
The Navy Reserve provides essential naval warfighting capabilities and expertise, strategically aligned with mission requirements - valued for our readiness, innovation, and agility.
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