As June 1 marked the official start of hurricane season, the communication team at U.S. Army North took the opportunity to train Soldiers in the Defense Coordinating Elements and the 76th Operational Response Command on communication methods in disaster responses at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston from May 17- 21.

What was normally an annual exercise, this DCE Region Communications noncommissioned officer training was postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The importance of this training is twofold,” said Sgt. Maj. Jeffery St. John, the G6 Assistant Chief of Staff for U.S. Army North. “We want to put names to faces between the DCE region communications NCO and the G6 staff. Then we want to ensure their ability to proficiently operate all of U.S. Army North’s tactical voice and data communication equipment.”

Each DCE region has a disaster that’s more common in their area than in other regions. For certain regions, hurricanes hit the hardest, while in others wildland fires devastate the areas, explained St. John. However, this doesn’t stop a disaster from striking in any given region.

“These Soldiers are able to network and integrate together to teach each other lessons learned from their own region,” St. John said. “This allows them to lean forward and draw from each other’s experiences.”

People leading the response efforts is half the battle, knowing how to use the equipment is the next hurdle. With the equipment being commercialized, there isn’t a standardized Army how-to manual. This training allows for familiarization as well as proficiency drills.

“Having a solid knowledge of what equipment is available will help establish communication quicker during a response,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Christensen, an information systems NCO for the 76th Operational Response Command. “Sometimes the first thing you pull out, it’s your favorite thing, doesn’t work, you need to know how to use those other pieces of equipment.”

Putting the right people with the right equipment amplifies U.S. Army North’s ability to respond quickly when a natural disaster strikes.

“We integrate every piece of equipment and tie it into our joint network operation center to ensure that everything works correctly,” St. John said. “For example, these NCOs can be called upon at any time to go out to places like Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands in preparation for hurricane landfalls.”

Preparation is key for any disaster. With this training, these Soldiers were prepared for the hurricane season, which started June 1.

“I feel really confident in my abilities to operate the equipment, use it correctly, and keep it going through a response,” Christensen said.

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