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No-notice exercise tests Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief readiness of AFSOUTH Airmen

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Adam Grant
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
A 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck in Nevidah at 9:20 p.m., December 5, 2014.

The earthquake killed more than 2,000 individuals and left more than 10,000 injured or missing.

More than 150,000 residents were left without homes major infrastructure and building damage has occurred.

United States Western Command has taken the lead with providing Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief to the Nevidahans alongside members from Washorgon, and Califon.

The main areas of focus for the assistance will be directed towards food, medicine, water purifications systems and temporary shelters, blankets, and plastic sheeting.


The exercise named "Operation Restore Balance" is a three day self-imposed exercise aimed at conducting Joint Intelligence Operations, operational maneuvering, operational sustainment, and command and control.

This is the first time that the organization has done a no notice exercise of this magnitude which entailed 400 personnel being recalled at the crack of dawn.

The main purpose of this exercise is to verify readiness capability in the case that there is a Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief (HADR) effort in the United States Southern Command area of responsibility.

"This type of exercise hasn't been done before due to the size of the organization but it's important because if a natural disaster were to occur it would be no notice and we would have to hit the ground running," said Col. John Schaefer, 612th Air Operations Center commander. "It also allows us to see where we may need to apply resources and people."

Due to the magnitude of the exercise members from AFSOUTH worked with members of the 505th Command and Control Wing who were able to create realistic training scenarios which allowed Airmen to showcase their capabilities.

After discussions in June about HADR the AOC realized they needed to acquire additional training on how to better respond to natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes and help set the stage for long-term recovery in the SOUTHCOM area of responsibility.

That's where the 505th Command and Control Wing comes into play to test readiness of any given organization, The 505th CCW is made up of a diverse group of Airmen, civilians and contractors who work on many different tasks, and are dedicated to taking testing, tactics development and training to the operational level by specializing in command and control in air, space and cyberspace.

"I knew we would have to bring in an outside organization that would allow for us to make this as close to being real as possible without many individuals knowing in advance," said Schaefer.

During the three days here the team from the 505th CCW shifted their focus towards areas that would be the most affected by a real world natural disaster.

One of the divisions that gained a lot of attention was the Air Mobility Division which is in charge of the transportation of supplies and goods during an HADR operational mission.

"This training has been very important for us," said Lt. Col James Wandmacher, 612th Air Operations Center Air Mobility Division Chief. "During exercises we aren't typically the main point of focus but for an event like this we play a crucial role and I'm glad to see that were able respond in an efficient manner."

During Operation Restore Balance, the Air Mobility Division saw a significant increase in mission coordination during the three-day period.

The goal of Operation Restore Balance was to test the readiness of Airmen from AFSOUTH, and ensure that there prepared at a moment's notice to assist when requested upon by USSOUTHCOM.

"I've been really impressed to see how the Airmen involved are responding in their areas of expertise as well as adjusting and becoming innovative and assisting in other areas where resources and manning may be low to ensure mission success," said Schaefer.