News W A T C H : Pacific Partners Prove Communication Key to Disaster Response

11:34:00 PM
MANILA, -- Exercise Pacific Endeavor 2015 (PE15) is in full swing, here, after its official start Aug. 31. The 21 participating Pacific partner-nation militaries are learning first-hand the importance of speed and interoperability of communication assets when responding to a multinational crisis.

Representatives from the Multinational Communications Interoperability Program (MCIP), a U.S. Pacific Command sponsored Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) information-sharing operation, are co-hosting the exercise with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to help improve interoperability of communications technologies between partner-nations in the pacific region.

The exercise is made up of multiple training modules aimed to keep participants ahead of ever changing technological advances, in case of an emergency situation. One being a Table-Top Exercise featuring a simulated 7.2 earthquake scenario, where groups of communicators are testing out their crisis communication frameworks and procedures.

Other training modules include Cyber Endeavor, where information assurance defense techniques are practiced and SatCom Endeavor, where participants familiarize themselves with satellite communications systems. Finally, Radio Endeavor involves participants synchronizing older “over the air” radio technology.

“Unfortunately internet systems in many disaster zones just won’t be there,” said Scott Griffin, the MCIP’s Technical Director. “Often times radio systems, although they’re an older-type system, are a reliable capability when your internet and phone are out.”

Major Leo Caduyar, from the Philippine Army Signal Command, and a participant of the exercise, says getting together to learn small lessons like this is vital to multinational interoperability.

“We’re able to work together with each other, especially on the military side,” said Caduar. “So that when the time comes, it’s not that hard to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.”

Face-to-face interaction is Exercise Pacific Endeavor’s driving force, which could be why attendance for the yearly event is steadily on the rise.

“By working day-to-day, learning about our partners in the region, hearing about their capabilities, and them learning about ours, it enables that professional relationship to continue to build,” said Mr. Griffin. “So when a real-world disaster happens, I know my counterpart in another country. If I have a question about his or her response, we have that relationship already built and that does speed up the process.”

The importance of the interaction between these military partners has been more apparent this year than in the past. Pacific Endeavor 2014 was held in Nepal, only eight months prior to the host-nation’s tragic earthquake. Valuable lessons were learned when years of PE training needed to be applied in a real-life crisis.

“After the disasters, we established the multinational coordination center there, very fast, within five or six hours we established our communication system,” said Lt. Col. Bhim Ban, a staff officer for the Nepalese Army’s Signal and Information Technology Division. “I was coordinating with U.S. Pacific Command about radio frequency management, and so it [Pacific Endeavor 2014] helped.”

“The proof of success is how the Nepalese were able to respond in the earthquake this year,” said Rear Adm. Kathleen Creighton, U.S. Pacific Command Director for Command, Control, Communications and Cyber Directorate. “They were able to quickly set up their multinational coordination center and were able to coordinate the help from all of their partner nations- that’s the real measure of success.”

Much of Exercise Pacific Endeavor’s success stems from a decade-long evolution of growth and learning between these military partner-nation communicators. Strong foundation of personal relationships are being built here, ones that will hopefully continue to save lives in the future.

“The ability to know and realize that we all may be different, from different backgrounds and different cultures, but we all have the common desire to protect our country, protect our families in the event that something happens, and we all want to pull together to help each other,” said Adm. Creighton.

The exercise is scheduled to conclude Sept. 11.

PACIFIC ENDEAVOR 2015 (PE15), sponsored by U.S. Pacific Command and hosted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, is a multinational workshop designed to enhance communication interoperability and expedite Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) response in the Asia-Pacific. The workshop will be held in Manila, Philippines, 31 AUG – 11 SEP 2015 and will involve a total of 21 allied and partner nations.

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