FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — The Missouri Army National Guard’s Sgt. Maj. Kevin E. Smith is the network operations manager and noncommissioned officer–in-charge of the National Guard’s newest Domestic All-Hazards Response Team.
With 31 years of service, Smith knows a thing or two about the Guard’s disaster response capabilities. From deadly heat waves, floods and hurricanes – including Hurricane Katrina – Smith’s service with the 35th Infantry Division has mobilized him on state active duty many times to support his governor and governors of other states.
“The division was actually the National Guard’s C2 [command and control] part of Hurricane Katrina [for Louisiana],” Smith said. “We had a work cell at Bell Chasse [Naval Air Station].”
Smith and others from the 35th division deployed here last week to participate in an exercise that tests the DART, which can be requested by state governors who need resources to assist civilian responders during a major disaster.
The 35th division’s DART-West is one of only two DARTs that encompass the Guard’s major disaster coordination for the nation. The Pennsylvania Guard’s 28th Infantry Division runs DART-East.
DARTs provide disaster response assistance at a state governor’s request when the state’s internal assets are exhausted or unavailable, Smith explained. DARTs also can provide assets, he added, through hurricane matrices and emergency management assistance compact agreements.
“We find those assets,” he said, explaining that the DART establishes force packages that mobilize and deploy to a disaster area to meet the identified capability gaps.
Those packages, Smith said, can provide Army and Air Guard capabilities, including command and control, special response teams, aviation, military police, engineer, transportation, medical, chemical and communications, among others.
Army officials pointed out why infantry divisions are qualified to run DART in the service’s 2010 Posture Statement: “The DART concept utilizes the unique capabilities of a division headquarters for planning and coordinating the employment of units.”
Having deployed twice with the 35th division’s headquarters, Smith possesses the requisite qualities and experience needed for a DART.
He deployed to Multinational Division North in Bosnia as an operations NCO for the communications office there. He also deployed to Camp Bondsteel, the main Army base in Kosovo, and served as a first sergeant for military intelligence.
DART members also use their skills and experiences from their civilian occupations, said Smith, who employs his skill as a commercial telecommunications specialist in international circuits and lines.
In his DART role, Smith gets communications systems up and working when the team’s coordination cell is activated. In the exercise, the DART simulated its activation for a series of domestic disaster scenarios, including a wildfire, flood, hurricane, earthquake and terrorism.
If a DART is ever activated to establish real-world force packages, Smith said, then “something very bad has happened” to the nation.
“We hope we never have to use the DART,” he said. “I hope my job is always easy … I never want to go to a big disaster.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)