By Justin Pummell
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Institute for Water Resources / Pacific Ocean Division
SENTUL, Indonesia -- The wailing of sirens pierce the humid silence of a waxing morning. An ambulance is racing to a scene of yet unknown catastrophe, as the driver grips the wheels with white knuckles and gritted teeth. The dust cloud that trails the vehicle envelopes the road-side temporarily, leaving those in its path wheezing for an escape hand-over-mouth.
Emergency rescue workers have arrived to the epicenter of pandemonium. As they spill out of the ambulance in a frantic pace, they find victims of the emergency crying for help, while others lie without emotion on the muddy ground. In the distance, more vehicles ascend the horizon. All of this reaction has been sparked by the sudden convulsion of the earth. An earthquake has struck without notice, and society's habitual motions have been flung into disorder.
To ensure governments are prepared to support its citizens in scenes like the one just described, it is paramount to practice response and recovery procedures. Furthermore, it becomes even more necessary to stand ready, when the threat of the disaster is large-scale and could overwhelm local capacity.
As a result, the governments of Indonesia and the United States conduct a regular Disaster Response Exercise & Exchange, or DREE, called Pacific Resilience.
This year's event, which was held June 3-6, at the Indonesia Peace & Security Center in Sentul, was the seventh annual event between the two nations.
The event was led, planned and executed by the U.S. Army Pacific, known as USARPAC; Tentara Nasional Indonesia, or TNI; SRC-PB, which stands for Satuan Reaksi Cepat Penanggulangan Bencana; and Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana. Agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or USACE, the U.S. Agency for International Development, known as USAID, and the World Food Programme, also provided subject matter expertise.
"It's just a matter of time before the next disaster hits, said Lt. Col. Thomas Brown, chief of Civil-Military Operations at USARPAC. "Pacific Resilience provides an opportunity for two similar military organizations from two different countries to come together and share best practices and lessons learned in order to prepare."
In this year's DREE, USARPAC's Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team, SRC-PB and other various civilian disaster relief organizations worked side by side in the first ever joint Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response Field Training Exercise in Indonesia. Both civilian and military disaster responders learned how to respond to a number of issues and problems in an efficient and responsible manner.
"The most important aspect of this training was that everyone unselfishly worked together to improve their methods and procedures with the common goal to save lives," said Brown.
During the course of the exercise, more than 150 participants gathered to focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The exercise was designed for response to an earthquake and tsunami impacting the area of Padang in western Sumatra.
The event commenced with capability presentations by various organizations, including the SRC-PB and USARPAC's Contingency Command Post. Next was a Table-Top Exercise, or TTX, that highlighted the four themes of the exercise:
-- quick reaction and communication,
-- integration of foreign humanitarian assistance
-- urban search & rescue
-- medical triage and stabilization
Upon conclusion of the TTX, two days of field training were conducted. In each of the four phases, USARPAC, SRC-PB, TNI, USACE and others were able to work side-by-side, using disaster response equipment and standard operating procedures.
Medical personnel from USARPAC's 18th Medical Command (Deployment Support), performed moulage on volunteers so first responders could practice procedures. U.S. and Indonesian teams conducted joint assessments on critical infrastructure, practiced water and ground search and rescue techniques, and evaluated processes for foreign assistance to supplement Indonesia first-responders.
USARPAC and the Government of Indonesia will continue with its annual disaster preparedness initiatives by conducting Pacific Resilience field training activities again next year. The event will continue to focus on operational and tactical response and processes to natural disaster situations.
Through these engagements, USARPAC, TNI, SRC-PB and others will enhance communication, interoperability and standardization. Pacific Resilience strengthens an unwavering partnership between the U.S. and Indonesia, and will continue to ensure both parties stand ready to respond to disasters in benefit of the civilian populace.