Wildfires spark deployment of Army North Command Post

By Pfc. Adam C. Blazak | October 29, 2007

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. – As wildfires ravaged southern California, Army North's Operational Command Post 2 deployed to March Air Reserve Base, Calif., Wednesday to assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to the crisis.

“After we got the call, we had 36 hours to deploy our personnel and equipment,” said Army Lt. Col. Nicholas C. Gonzales, the officer-in-charge of logistics.

With the help of personnel at March, the deployment to California went without any major obstacles.

“The coordination between the agencies has been great,” Gonzales said. “People were ready to greet us when we arrived on the tarmac.”

The OCP2 is comprised of more than 70 servicemembers, Department of Defense civilians and Department of the Army civilians. Their mission is to support the lead federal agency by providing transportation, engineer support, meals, tents and any other approved military capability.

Based out of Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the OCP2 plays an integral part in providing additional support to national disasters.

“We’re here to provide services to citizens of the United States,” said Gonzales.

Although this is the first large-scale homeland defense deployment of an OCP to assist FEMA, operations have been running smoothly.

“We’ve established a battle rhythm, which is what we were taught during past training exercises,” said Army Maj. Tammy L. Howell, an operations officer. “We’ve established contacts and have cross-referenced with other service branches.”

Having good communications is an important aspect of setting up an operational command post.

“We set up [communication] inside the OCP, back to the rear, and to all agencies,” said Department of the Army civilian Quinton S. Burke, a systems administrator. “Keeping communications at a 95 percent operational level is our goal, and we’re meeting our goal.

“Without communications, you can’t talk,” he added.

The OCP2 has high hopes for this mission.

“When needs and requirements are met, [and] we see the people returning to semi-normalcy, and the fire containment is increased, we will have met success,” Gonzales said. “We are prepared to stay out here as long as support is required.”

“We are here to help out in every way we can,” Howell said. “We want to make a difference.”