Defense Coordinating Officer, Element deploy for Hurricane Omar

By NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs | October 17, 2008

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – A United States Army North defense coordinating officer deployed Oct. 15 from New York City to the Virgin Islands as part of the federal team to assist with a possible federal response to Hurricane Omar.

Col. Robert Freehill will serve as the Department of Defense representative on the ground to coordinate requests for federal military support and provide initial command and control for any responding federal military forces.  

The Defense Coordinating Element, comprising about 10 Army North Soldiers and civilians, is collocated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the Regional Response Coordination Center in New York City. When designated as the lead federal agency following a disaster, FEMA coordinates the federal response requested by a state.

Army North has 10 defense coordinating officers and elements collocated with FEMA regional offices to work daily with federal and state emergency planners to prepare for civil support missions. FEMA’s Region II includes New Jersey, New York, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The primary mission of federal military forces responding to a disaster is to provide additional capability to save and sustain lives and relieve suffering. Typical assistance requests include helping with search and rescue, evacuation, route clearance, food and water distribution, mass medical care or shelter, and restoration of basic public services.

Army North, headquartered at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, provides defense support of civil authorities as the Army component of U.S. Northern Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., the unified command responsible for homeland defense and civil support in the continental United States.