Marine Unit to Practice Disaster Preparedness

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2011 — Fleet Week-San Fran­cis­co is more than just a chance for lib­er­ty in a world-class city, it’s also an oppor­tu­ni­ty for Marines to prac­tice their dis­as­ter-response capa­bil­i­ties, said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Melvin G. Spiese, the com­man­der of the 1st Marine Expe­di­tionary Brigade.

Spiese’s Camp Pendle­ton, Calif.,-based unit will prac­tice pro­vid­ing dis­as­ter response and human­i­tar­i­an aid as part of Fleet Week activ­i­ties Oct. 6 to 11. 

In Sep­tem­ber, the brigade will board the ships of the Expe­di­tionary Strike Group 3 to take part in Exer­cise Dawn Blitz. “It will be a large­ly amphibi­ous and con­ven­tion­al war sce­nario, where we’ll be work­ing land­ing plans and pro­ject­ing pow­er ashore,” Spiese said in a recent interview. 

“We will tran­si­tion from that into San Fran­cis­co Fleet Week,” he said. “The 1st MEB’s flag will sail north and we will be the head­quar­ters run­ning all the Marines who are par­tic­i­pat­ing in Fleet Week.” 

The city has been using Fleet Week to exer­cise mil­i­tary sup­port to civ­il author­i­ty in the event of a nation­al disaster. 

San Fran­cis­co is on a penin­su­la right along the San Andreas Fault. The entire area is earth­quake country. 

“I think a sig­nif­i­cant earth­quake in San Fran­cis­co could be cat­a­stroph­ic,” Spiese said. “The road net­works could become eas­i­ly prob­lem­at­ic as well as sig­nif­i­cant infra­struc­ture prob­lems. The abil­i­ty to pull peo­ple out is going to be difficult.” 

Get­ting help down­town will be a prob­lem — a prob­lem the Marines could help with using their amphibi­ous capa­bil­i­ties. “We’re unique in that we can bring capa­bil­i­ties in to the dis­as­ter to help bring relief, but with­out bring­ing a sig­nif­i­cant foot­print adding to the prob­lems,” Spiese said. 

This year, the Marines are demon­strat­ing a med­ical surge. “We’re going to be mov­ing north our sur­gi­cal com­pa­nies and our shock-trau­ma pla­toons,” the gen­er­al said. “Not only will they be part of the table-top exer­cise, but we will be putting them on dis­play dur­ing Fleet Week at Mis­sion Green near the piers in San Francisco.” 

Fleet Week also will high­light the med­ical capa­bil­i­ties aboard the amphibi­ous ships. The USS Bon­homme Richard will be on display. 

In the past, San Fran­cis­co was laced with active duty bases, which closed as part of the base realign­ment and clo­sure process. Today, local offi­cials don’t real­ly con­sid­er the help active duty forces could bring to a sit­u­a­tion, Spiese said. Active duty forces have been used count­less times in sup­port of nat­ur­al dis­as­ters inside the Unit­ed States. 

The exer­cise allows author­i­ties “to under­stand what they can lever­age and access out of the active duty force — in par­tic­u­lar, the Navy and Marine Corps team in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia,” he said. “In the event of a dis­as­ter, they know quick­ly what they can start look­ing for and plan­ning on, as well as the process by which they gain access to those fed­er­al resources.” 

The Marine Expe­di­tionary Brigade, Spiese said, is pri­mar­i­ly a warfight­ing orga­ni­za­tion. The Fleet Week human­i­tar­i­an aid and dis­as­ter response exer­cise is focused main­ly on com­bat ser­vice sup­port and logistics. 

“It’s going to force us to think through the prob­lem dif­fer­ent­ly,” the gen­er­al said. “It will force us to exer­cise a dif­fer­ent part of the mil­i­tary brain.” 

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

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