Preparing for Alabama's No. 1 threat

Release #2012042801

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Alabama Guardsmen brief hurricane plans on a 45x80 ft. map. Photo by Spc. Brenda N. Thomas.

MONTGOMERY, AL (04/28/2012)(readMedia)-- The Alabama National Guard takes disaster response seriously. Guardsmen from units across the state gathered at the headquarters here, Saturday, April 28, 2012, for a Rehearsal of Concept (ROC) drill to rehearse the state's hurricane operations response plan.

Staff members from the Alabama Emergency Management Agency were on-hand for the rehearsal due to the close working relationship of the AEMA and the National Guard during disaster relief. "We are a coordinating agency," said Jeff Byard, AEMA Executive Operations Officer. "The National Guard is our force multiplier." Members of U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), the U.S. military's command responsible for North America, were also on-hand, including the Alabama National Guard's Maj. Gen. Charles Gailes, now commander of USNORTHCOM's Task Force 51.

The rehearsal includes Alabama National Guard Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ) and individual unit actions to prepare for a hurricane response. The event will cover pre-hurricane season activities, hurricane approach through land fall, and beyond. This ensures that Guardsmen fully understand the response plan at all levels and synchronize actions from the JFHQ level down to the unit level in response to a hurricane.

Guardsmen briefed from two lecterns standing on the panhandle of Florida on a map that took up the entire drill hall floor. Other Soldiers used placards to show where their respective units would provide a particular asset at a particular time during response as a 4-foot-wide hurricane symbol approached and then landed on the map that spanned 40 feet wide and 85 feet long.

This rehearsal leads to next month's weeklong hurricane response exercise where the Alabama National Guard will practice in a simulated environment the actions taken in storm response, again from pre-landfall operations to days into the response.

These rehearsals and exercises are key to mission success. "The reason we did so well last year with the tornadoes is because of training events like this," said Maj. Gen. Perry G. Smith, Alabama National Guard Adjutant General.

Even though this rehearsal is for hurricanes, the preparations, coordination and many of the missions are the same for most disasters that may face the state. "Hurricanes are what we're known for," said Smith. "This is what we do." "A hurricane will always be the number one threat to Alabama," said Byard.

"The final result of all the preparation and training prior to this ROC drill, the conduct of this drill and then the exercise in May is that the Alabama National Guard is fully prepared to respond to a hurricane by the June 1 beginning of hurricane season," said Lt. Col. Jim Hawkins, Alabama National Guard Deputy Director of Domestic Response.

Photo cutline - Command: The command group looks on and asks questions about the hurricane ROC drill. L to R: Jeff Byard, AEMA Executive Operations Officer; Col. Eddie Porter, ALNG Chief of Staff; Maj. Gen. Charles Gailes, USNORTHCOM Task Force 51 Commander; Maj. Gen. Perry G. Smith, ALNG Adjutant General; Brig. Gen. Allen M. Harrell, ALNG Director of Joint Staff; Command Sgt. Maj. Eddie Pike, ALNG Command Sergeant Major.