Hurricane preparedness tested by Vigilant Guard/Makani Pahili 2015

  • Published
  • By Airman First Class Robert Cabuco
  • 154th Wing Public Affairs
With above normal activity predicted for the 2015 hurricane season by the National Weather Service Forecast Office, nothing can be more timely than the Vigilant Guard/Makani Pahili hurricane preparedness exercises taking place in Hawaii.

More than 2,200 National Guardsmen, Active Duty and civilian personnel are participating in a disaster preparedness exercise in the State of Hawaii called Vigilant Guard/Makani Pahili 2015. About 700 of those Guardsmen are from out-of-state. The multi-faceted exercise, sponsored by the U.S. Northern Command and National Guard Bureau, combines the Vigilant Guard regional exercise, the first conducted in Hawaii, and the Makani Pahili hurricane preparedness exercise, led by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HIEMA), formerly called State Civil Defense.

With over a year of planning behind them, the various agencies are ready to challenge the participant's collaborative proficiencies regarding emergency preparation, coordination, response, and recovery management during National Guard Domestic Operations and catastrophic events.

Brig. Gen. Bruce Olivera, Joint Task Force 5-0 Commander, explained that  "a Category 4 Hurricane will hit the State of Hawaii" as part of the simulated exercise initiating other "complex scenarios such as mass casualty, collapsed structure, and cyber infrastructure."

The scenarios are taking place at various locations across the State of Hawaii. Locations on Oahu include the Hawaii National Guard Headquarters, the Regional Training Institute in Waimanalo, the Queen's Medical Center - West Oahu, Pier 29, and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. On Hawaii Island, training is occurring at the Keaukaha Military Reservation. On Maui training is being held at the Hawaii Army National Guard Puunene armory and the Maui Fire Department training area. On Kauai, training is being held at the Vindiha Stadium and the HIARNG Hanapepe armory.

Olivera's leadership abilities are being put to the test as a Dual-Status Commander (DSC) where a single commander, usually a National Guard officer, is given tactical control of both state-controlled National Guard forces and Active Duty military forces. During natural disasters, the Governor has overall control and can request support from the DSC as needed.

The exercise also involves civilian first-responders such as the police and fire departments as well as National Guard units (on Title 32 status) and active duty forces (on Title 10 status).  National Guardsmen from other states including California, Oregon, Utah, Nevada and Guam are participating in the exercise.

"We have observers from seven Asia-Pacific countries here to observe and see what we do." Olivera said. The foreign delegates have previously observed and some have participated in training during past Makani Pahili exercises.

Hawaii has experienced natural disasters in the past and has responded well due in large part to the multi-agency cooperation facilitated by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. Vigilant Guard/Makani Pahili 2015 provides a unique opportunity to combine these experiences with a new arrangement to have federal active duty troops incorporated with a perfect storm scenario.