JTF-CS assists Fuertes Defensas 2006

By Staff Sgt. Chris Hale | USMC JTF-CS Public Affairs | October 13, 2006

Joint Task Force Civil Support’s Joint Technical Augmentation Cell traveled recently to U.S. Southern Command in Miami to support USSOUTHCOM’s Joint Planning Group during exercise Fuertes Defensas 2006.

According to Lt. Col. Stephen Hall, JTAC Chief, FD06 was a command post planning exercise with a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Foreign Consequence Management scenario.

The exercise centered on the possibility of a chemical; attack somewhere in USSOUTHCOM’s area of responsibility.

Hall said this was the JTAC’s first trip to SOUTHCOM and “an excellent opportunity to exercise the JTAC mission.”

The JTAC mission is defined by a directive from U.S. Northern Command tasking JTF-CS to provide CBRN technical support to other regional combatant commands.
“Because of the uniqueness of the JTF-CS mission, we’ve been given the job of helping train others to do the same [mission] in their areas,” said Hall. For the exercise, the JTAC was actually a member of the USSOUTHCOM JPG.

“We went down there with a 12-member team,” said Hall. “Because of our unique capabilities, we naturally reach within ourselves, but we also reach out to other DoD technical agencies.”

Besides Hall, four other members of the team were from JTF-CS. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the 20th Support Command, the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine and the Naval Research Lab also provided personnel.

Hall said his mission includes not only training other commands, but, if one of those commands responds to a real foreign CBRN incident, the JTAC could deploy in support of their consequence management mission. Depending on the nature of the incident, he could reach out to other agencies, such as the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases or the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense.

Hall said his objective for the mission was to, “get [SOUTHCOM] to plan for such an incident, and then to prepare a commander’s estimate for the Secretary of Defense.” He attacked this objective in three ways.

“We started off supporting their academic sessions,” said Hall. Specifically, they briefed the USSOUTHCOM JPG on the basics of foreign consequence management, focusing on the procedures required for a foreign nation to request assistance, should an incident occur.

“A foreign nation would request assistance through the ambassador to that country,” said Hall. After the ambassador passes on that request and it is approved by the President or the Secretary of Defense, “SOUTHCOM would stand up a task force like JTF-CS and work with the State Department like we work with the Department of Homeland Security; the State Department would be the equivalent of our lead federal agency.”

Next, Hall and the rest of the team addressed the exercise scenario injects. “We prepared a detailed technical threat analysis of the terrorist chemical threat,” said Hall. Their analysis included down-wind hazard assessments, the effects of phosgene, threats to the environment, personnel protection and consequence management considerations. “Basically we were teaching them how to do what we do here,” said Hall.

Their third main task was to provide support to the JPG’s command and control course of action analysis.

“We were able to provide some courses of action based on their troop capabilities, helping them identify which troops they would ask for,” said Hall. They also prepared a troop-to-task analysis which, “we were able to take directly from our [JTF-CS] chemical playbooks.”

Lt. Col. William Redman, USSOUTHCOM operations, said, “The Joint Technical Augmentation Cell was critical to USSOUTHCOM's crisis action planning during this exercise. Their knowledge and expertise in modeling the effects of different events allowed us to tailor an appropriate response to them. As a result of their involvement we are better prepared to respond to such an event should it occur.”

Aside from the primary mission of supporting USSOUTHCOM’s JPG, members of the JTAC met with some of USSOUTHCOM’s Special Staff.

Cmdr. Andrew Holland, JTAC deputy/operations officer, met with their Engineer Special Staff and shared the JTAC’s roles and responsibilities, as well as how the JTAC could support them not only during a crisis, but in day-to-day operations as well.

“We at JTF-CS are used to dealing with ‘what ifs,’” said Holland, “this was an opportunity to bring our experience and liaison with their engineers and talk about how a [CBRN] incident would affect their mission.”

Holland said looking at a command whose daily mission does not include the amount of planning that JTF-CS does gave him a greater appreciation for the level of planning competency at JTF-CS. “We really are the center of excellence,” he said.

Fuertes Defensas 2006 was cut short by a day or two because of Hurricane Ernesto, but Hall still deemed the trip a success.

“We didn’t get to fully play out the scenario,” said Hall, “but at the time we had to leave, they were definitely going down a successful path.”