Multiagency partnerships key ahead of Michigan National Guard and Michigan State Police emergency response exercise

LANSING, MI, UNITED STATES

10.29.2019

Story by 1st Lt. Andrew Layton

Michigan National Guard

LANSING, Mich. – Approximately 150 personnel representing more than 40 military, local government, and civilian agencies came together Oct. 23-24 near the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing for a mid-planning meeting to strengthen relationships and coordination ahead of exercise Northern Exposure 20/Rising Waters 2020.

Northern Exposure 20/Rising Waters 2020 is a state-wide collaborative emergency response and domestic operations exercise being planned for April 14-17, 2020 at locations in Muskegon, Ottawa, Kent, Isabella, and other counties in Michigan. The exercise is staging in cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), Vigilant Guard – a U.S. Northern Command and National Guard Bureau exercise program – and the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division.

“We’re building partnerships now because you don’t want to meet your partners at an incident – that’s not the time to exchange business cards,” said Brig. Gen. Jeff Terrill, assistant adjutant general for exercises, Michigan National Guard. “This is what these exercises are for: to get to know who you’ll be working with and to understand their capabilities, so that in the worst-case scenario, there’s already a relationship there.”

Though the actual execution of Northern Exposure 20/Rising Waters 2020 is still nearly six months in the future, emergency managers from across the state are busy shaping the exercise’s scenario to ensure it touches on as many key elements of a natural disaster response as possible to optimize training opportunities for participants.

“The focus of the scenario for this exercise will be something that we deal with quite often in Michigan – and that’s flooding,” said Insp. James Grady, assistant division commander, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, Michigan State Police. “We have very high water levels here in Michigan with our Great Lakes, so what better way to be ready in case it happens – and knock on wood it doesn’t – than by developing a good exercise.”

Grady acknowledges that in an exercise with the size and scope of Northern Exposure 20/Rising Waters 2020, planners do not expect all drills to run smoothly.

“Each of the agencies here have plans they want to test,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that you play the way you practice, and that’s what this exercise provides: an opportunity to test and challenge those plans that you have in place, then take what you learn – or what didn’t go so well – and make the plans better.”

In addition to officials from participating state-wide agencies, the conference was also attended by a team of planners from U.S. Northern Command’s headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., representing the Vigilant Guard exercise program.

“Our primary mission is to help states plan and conduct civil support exercises with the goal of strengthening partner relationships and building disaster response capacity within the enterprise – the National Guard, the state, the local agencies, as well as the federal government,” said Jim Mitchell, Vigilant Guard lead exercise planner, U.S. Northern Command. “We do that by providing funding, planning support, and some unique enablers to enhance the training like airlift support, as well as simulation support to help replicate the units that can’t participate physically.”

According to Terrill, Michigan National Guard Soldiers and Airmen will ideally come away from the planning and execution of Northern Exposure 20/Rising Waters 2020 with a sharpened ability to perform other missions, in addition to providing domestic operations support to protect community, state, and nation.

“In the National Guard, we fight the nation’s wars, we defend the homeland, and we build partnerships; I’m here to tell you an exercise like this helps us accomplish all three of those,” he said. “When we have to put the call out to our 11,500 Soldiers and Airmen to show up to their armories or air bases, get their kits ready, and assemble for activation, that is something we need to practice regularly to be ready for any tasking we could receive.”

“Many of the command and control procedures that we do in an exercise like this are also the same for tracking the battle space in a Federal overseas mission, so it’s a valuable exercise for us, even when we think about our warfighting function.”

With a final planning meeting scheduled for February 2020, preparations for Northern Exposure 20/Rising Waters 2020 are pressing forward with a remarkably singular focus.

“It’s important to make sure we collaborate,” Grady said. “We are being resilient, by continuously practicing and testing our plans to make sure we’re ready to keep the citizens of our great state on their feet and to help them recover if the worst-case natural disaster were to take place.”

https://www.dvidshub.net/news/349755/multiagency-partnerships-key-ahead-michigan-national-guard-and-michigan-state-police-emergency-response-exercise

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