MANAGUA, Nicaragua –
The U.S. Southern Command Situational Assessment Team from Joint Task Force-Bravo, based out of Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, demonstrated their ability to rapidly deploy and provide professional and self-sustained disaster response assistance to partner nations in Central America at the U.S. Embassy grounds in Managua, Nicaragua, May 17.
The S-SAT element provided a mission and capabilities brief and as well as an orientation to S-SAT equipment for Nicaraguan Army Col. Rogelio Enrique Flores Ortíz, head of the Nicaraguan Civil Defense, as well as more than a dozen members of U.S. Embassy, Managua, Community Emergency Response Team.
The S-SAT is comprised of a team leader, civil military operations officer, air operations planer, engineer operations planner, logistics planner, communications planner, medical planner and force protection planner who provide critical information to governmental and non-governmental disaster response teams so they know what to expect and plan for when they arrive.
"The S-SAT was designed to help with coordination between the affected nation and responding agencies after some lessons learned from previous events," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Brian Henderson, JTF-Bravo S-SAT and U.S. Army Forces Battalion commander. "The S-SAT is scalable and can be tailored based on the nature and scope of the disaster."
The S-SAT can deploy with anywhere from three to 11 members and includes communications systems, a high-capacity water purification system, preventative medicine and first aid capabilities, power generators and large tents that enable the team to perform all necessary functions in an austere environment. All the gear and personnel for a standard S-SAT deployment is designed to fit into one CH-47 Chinook helicopter.
"We bring the capabilities to self-sustain so we can provide support without needing any ourselves," said Henderson. "It's important that we are self-sufficient so that we are not a burden on the host nation."
Three S-SATs were established in 2010, with the one from JTF-Bravo being responsible for the Central American region, which includes Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. The JTF-Bravo S-SAT is designed to be able to depart Soto Cano Air Base within 18 hours of notification by SOUTHCOM after an approved request from the US Embassy's Chief of Mission/Ambassador and provide SOUTHCOM real time situation assessment about the status of relief efforts and potential request from Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, which is part of US AID, for Department of Defense support.
The S-SAT provides a practical way for the DOD to quickly provide assistance in a foreign humanitarian aid/disaster relief scenario, and would work hand in hand with the U.S. Embassy of the requesting nation, OFDA and host-nation disaster response organizations.
"What the S-SAT offers by way of capabilities and self-sustainment is invaluable in a disaster situation as both the affected nation and the U.S. Embassy will likely be overwhelmed trying to handle the crisis," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Brian Woolworth, Chief of the Office of Security Cooperation-Nicaragua. "Disaster relief efforts are the kind of operations that really affect people and that they remember. There are people here still talking about the help they received from the U.S. during humanitarian assistance projects and deployments more than 15 years ago."
The JTF-Bravo S-SAT was invited to Nicaragua to demonstrate their ability to respond to a disaster situation and integrate with the U.S. Embassy, Managua, CERT, OFDA and the Nicaraguan National System for Prevention and Attention to Disasters (SINAPRED) to aid in crisis response and alleviate human suffering.
"This is the first time in more than two years that the S-SAT has conducted an exercise outside of Honduras, and our objective is to be able to demonstrate our capability to self-sustain while informing U.S. Embassy Country teams throughout CENTAM about the variety of DOD resources that are at their disposal," said U.S. Army Maj. Gennelle Lee, S-SAT operations officer. "Ultimately we want to enable the JTF-Bravo S-SAT to communicate, collaborate and cooperate with OFDA and the host nation prior to a disaster or humanitarian crisis. Whether the next disaster is an earthquake, a hurricane, flooding or volcanic eruption, the S-SAT is prepared to rapidly deploy to support in order assist in saving lives and alleviate human suffering."