SAN ANTONIO, TX, UNITED STATES –
With this year’s hurricane season starting to wind down, Task Force 51 already began preparations for the next season. As part of their annual training, the task force completed a long and grueling week of training called Level II Deployment Readiness Exercise (DRE). This exercise culminated in a joint air hazardous material and cargo deployment function training with the 433rd Contingency Response Flight and the 68th Airlift Squadron.
“One of our primary tasks, as the contingency command post for Army North, is to be completely responsive in an emergency environmental situation,” said Lt. Col. Jeremy Gottshall, U.S. Army North’s Task Force 51 logistical officer in charge. “We have to get out the door as quickly as possible to be the first representatives of the [Joint Force Land Component Command] in a joint area of operations to establish command and control, and develop situational awareness.”
Task Force 51 is a versatile, deployable command post that provides mission command options for routine and contingency operations. This DRE tests the task force’s ability to move themselves and their equipment in whatever capacity is asked of them.
“Our end goal [for this training] was two-fold,” said the Nacogdoches, Texas, native. “We wanted to get our new personnel familiar with how to load our equipment on the aircraft… as well as validate some of our newer equipment that we hadn’t air loaded yet.”
The task force can go anywhere in the continental United States at a moment’s notice when responding to various incidents that include wildfires, earthquakes, and hurricanes. While responding, the task force can provide a variety of capabilities such as situational awareness or assessment team, a liaison element, or, with augmentation from other services, a deployable joint command post.
“Basically, we push ourselves out when we get deployed,” said Staff Sgt. Whitfield Leach, U.S. Army North’s Task Force 51 aide-de-camp. “It’s everybody’s mission to do what we need to do to accomplish the mission, and that’s the only thing that matters.”
With the completion of the DRE, Task Force 51 is qualified to rapidly deploy with capabilities to establish a contingency command post anywhere emergency responses strike.
“This is a good team-building exercise because no one is standing around with their hands on their heads,” said the Jersey City, New Jersey, native. “We don’t do that here, that’s not what we do. We get our hands dirty and say let’s go.”