Osan readies for NEO exercise

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael O'Connor
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Team Osan is scheduled to take part in the U.S. Forces Korea Courageous Channel 2006-2 semi-annual noncombatant evacuation operations exercise Oct. 27-28. 

The purpose of the four-day joint training exercise is to allow each of the component commands under USFK to practice the way they work together to evacuate noncombatants from the Republic of Korea and to give noncombatants a chance to practicegetting themselves and their families out of harm's way, at a moments notice. 

"Anyone who pays attention to the news can understand why it's important to conduct this kind of training," said Master Sgt. Grant Embrey, Area V NEO superintendent. "A few recent world events that come to mind are the Indian-Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and most recently, the events going on in Lebanon which prompted the evacuation of noncombatants." 

The goal of Courageous Channel exercises is 100 percent accountability of the Department of Defense affiliated noncombatant community through recall and to have 100 percent processed, said Maj. Dan Ervin, Area V officer in charge of NEO. 

"In Area-V, the key to success is ensuring that people know about the exercise and that commanders at all levels emphasize the importance of processing through the evacuation control center," said Master Sgt. Embrey. "I don't know of any other NEO program on the 'pen' that encompasses and showcases NEO better than Team Osan's does." 

Brig. Gen. Joe Reynes, 51st Fighter Wing and Area-V commander on the peninsula, is a very strong supporter of NEO and it shows, said Master Sgt. Embrey. 

"It's because of the general's belief in NEO that we incorporate and practice NEO in some capacity during every wing exercise at Osan," said Master Sgt. Embrey. "The wing's motto of "Ready to Fight Tonight" doesn't just apply to military servicemembers -- our noncombatants need to be ready to do their part as well."

Besides the recurring NEO training Team Osan does throughout the year, another way families are kept prepared is through the quarterly review of each squadron commander's NEO program, said Major Ervin. 

"It's important that everyone makes the commitment to participate and to see the process firsthand. One of the keys to maximum participation is making sure the word gets out, particularly because personnel turnover means new family members and other noncombatants eligible for evacuation arrive regularly," said Major Ervin. 

Specially designated NEO wardens are trained by units to inform and assist the noncombatants during the evacuation process. Prior to assembling at evacuation control centers Oct. 27-28, NEO wardens are required to contact all of their families and complete a 100 percent inspection of NEO kits. Major Ervin said units are also tasked with monitoring the status of noncombatants within their charge during the exercise to ensure maximum accountability and participation. 

During this exercise, nine of the approximate 90 volunteer noncombatants from throughout the Republic of Korea are from Osan and will participate in a limited, government-funded relocation to a safe haven. This part of the exercise will give noncombatants, who'll be going on the sail-away and fly-away to Japan, visualization of what to expect up to the safe haven part of an evacuation, so they can come back and share their experience with others. 

Courageous Channel 2006-2 will also exercise the NEO Tracking System, said Master Sgt. Embrey. The NTS gives each component command the ability to track noncombatants as they move through the evacuation process from Korea to the repatriation sites in the continental U.S. 

"Whether it's severe weather or a natural disaster, political instability or in times of conflict and war, it's always good to be prepared," said Major Ervin. "The expectation of the Area-V commander is that all noncombatants will take part and process during this exercise, including family members, civilians and contractors. Everyone needs to take training like this seriously, all the time, because you never know what tomorrow will bring."