N-Train’s theme of Maritime Domain Awareness continued to dominate the workshops, but perhaps even more pervasively in the joint “M” and “O” workshop, which kicked off the Sunday morning at N-Train.
This workshop was led by David Hand, DC-M, Linda Nelson, DC-O, David Elliot DC-Od, and John Van Osdol N-MDA. It could be described as a ‘lessons learned” type of seminar that everyone was listening to intensely. Elliot began by discussing the need to “hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst.”
David Elliot illustrated that point by walking the participants through a detailed “after action report” of sorts regarding the Auxiliary’s participation after 9/11 in New York City. Not only did the Auxiliary perform well under the circumstances, but some Auxiliarists went above and beyond the call, recounted Elliot.
However, the response was also fraught with challenges. ‘In some cases, the NYPD did not allow the Auxiliary access to marinas and other areas where they we trying to reach to enhance our response efforts,” Elliot said. He cited other challenges that we must learn to address, such as coordination with other public agencies in situations like 9/11, as well as trying to calm public reactions.
Elliot urged the Auxiliarists present to not only plan for “surge operations,” as might be required under MARSEC 2 or as a result of a severe thunderstorm or other fast moving natural disaster, but for what he called “storm surge operations,” like what the New York City area experienced for several months after the 9/11 attacks. “The time to begin planning for the worst is now,” said Elliot.
“Keep your emergency response plan short and simple,” said Elliot. “The Auxiliary needs to identify key team members, and plan for alternates, should the primary point of contact be unavailable.
Elliot continued, “There should also be a communications tree, and we should consider means which would be function even with land line and power outages.” Elliot went on to say that Ham radio operators trained in establishing emergency communication nets would be a big benefit in situations like 9/11.
Elliot concluded his portion of the program by stating that the Coast Guard must plan for the Auxiliary in developing their Area Contingency Plans, and the Auxiliary must be prepared to respond accordingly when called to do so.
“Why is maritime domain awareness so important?” asked John Van Osdol, our National MDA Coordinator.
The answer is - “Most critical infrastructures in our country are located on or near water, and play a key role in keeping our economy strong. That is why MDA is so critical.”
Van Osdol went on to discuss the three elements of MDA - awareness, prevention and response. He stated that the transition of the Coast Guard into sectors would probably benefit our MDA efforts.
“But make no mistake - MDA is not just about security or response– it is much more encompassing than that,” said Van Osdol. “One of the primary objectives is prevention through intelligence gathering, through programs such as America’s Waterway Watch program. We’ve also got to integrate state and local agencies, as well as the private sector, and educate them about what to be on the lookout for.”
Van Odol mentioned that the OPR III coordinators in each District would be renamed MDA Coordinators. Moreover, he urged Auxiliary leaders to get their units involved in readiness and alert exercises, and cited the sample scenarios available on the OPR web site at http://www.uscgaux.org/~opr/mobilizing_forces.htm . he also urged Auxiliarists to read the white paper on MDA available at http://www.uscgaux.org/~opr/pdf/MDAwhitepaperv1.0.pdf .
Hand and Nelson concluded the workshop by pledging that their respective
departments would work even more closely together to do their best to
make sure the Auxiliary is prepared for whatever tomorrow’s needs