Makani Pahili exercise helps prepare for disaster

LIHU‘E — The Hawai‘i National Guard and a unit from Nevada are on Kaua‘i this week for the Makani Pahili 2012 disaster communications exercise in support of the County of Kaua‘i and County Civil Defense.

The exercise staged a post-hurricane response where power and communications infrastructure are knocked out.

In such a circumstance, the 293rd Combat Communications Squadron, a Hawai‘i National Guard unit based at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, would initially respond with its Joint Incident Site Communications Capability. It is a rapid deployment system that can have global voice and data links working to support local emergency efforts within an hour of deployment.

The unit is coordinating with a larger effort commanded by Lt. Col. Reynold Hioki, the Kaua‘i Island JISCC Commander for the statewide exercise. In addition to the Mainland units there are 10 officers and enlisted soldiers and airmen from the Hawai‘i National Guard.

“This is about building partnerships,” Hioki said.

County Civil Defense Manager Theodore Daligdig III said the Makani Pahili 2012 hurricane exercise provides Kaua‘i with a great opportunity to partner with various federal, state and local agencies.

“It’s designed to test our response capabilities as well as our current plans,” Daligdig said.

“The operational intensity is low, thereby allowing for immediate discussions to address and correct detected flaws in our plans. This type of exercise enhances disaster preparedness not only for government but also for the private sector and ultimately benefit all of the people on Kaua’i, residents and visitors alike.”

In the exercise, the JISCC team approaches Civil Defense, along with local police and fire departments and county government, to determine their immediate communications needs. The first priority is to set up a dispatch center and other emergency communications.

The county may suggest where to establish mobile JISCC systems around the island. The JISCC is ideal for remote areas with its own power, HF and satellite links.

With voice and data capabilities down on all the islands, Hioki said it would not be possible to call using the 808 area code. The JISCC satellite link sends all calls through California or Virginia.

Hawai‘i has five JISCC packages, all of which were in use for the exercise. The California National Guard brought in two JISCC and 11 members for use on O‘ahu and Maui, and the Nevada National Guard brought one JISCC and six member to support Kaua‘i.

Hawai‘i is in District 9 of the regional support network for Federal Emergency Management Agency protocols, Hioki said. This exercise prompted District 9 member states California and Nevada to respond as they would to a real disaster.

Hawai‘i sent troops to support exercises in Reno in 2008, but have yet to deploy a JISCC to the Mainland.

“We hope to do that soon,” Hioki said.

Chief Warrant Officer Roy Hellen is the officer in charge of the Joint Force Headquarters Nevada JISCC unit. He said the systems are needed for Nevada, a large state with remote areas of desert and mountains where temperatures can climb over 100 degrees during the day and fall below freezing at night.

Hellen said he was pleased with the Kaua‘i mission because it demonstrated that his unit could pack the JISCC into a Nevada Air Guard C130 transport plane. He said it shows they can deploy a team on a long flight without outside logistical support.

The troops worked around the clock to get the system up and sending calls from up to 32 terminals at each location. Basic operations are the priority, and they then begin enhanced capabilities in the second phase.

“The JISCC is definitely utilized for quick response, but it is also capable of sustaining functionality for the long term,” Helen said.

Once the system is in full operation, the troops begin to work eight-hour shifts.

Hellen said it felt good to be back in Hawai‘i. He is a graduate of Chaminade University of Honolulu, and earned his master’s degree at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.

“I spend nine years in Hawai‘i and it’s a part of me wherever I am as I travel,” he said.

Sgt. Travis Martinellie of the Nevada Army National Guard just returned from his second one-year deployment in Afghanistan. He said that if this were an overseas mission, the communications systems would be more secure.

“This is a civilian platform in support of police and fire, and it’s non-secure,” Martinellie said.

The Civil Air Patrol also will be flying two missions in support of the damage assessment exercise. On Tuesday its planes relayed high-speed images from cameras on a flight around the island to the JISCC, and today a flight will relay live video feed.

Hioki said the exercise is cost-effective because it is in collaboration with existing training schedules and military transport flights to the Mainland or around the islands.

He said that no additional dollars were spent for the exercise than were already being used for other relative purposes.

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