Former Commander: JTF-CS ready to respond to catastrophic disaster in homeland
The day before he relinquished command of Joint Task Force Civil Support, U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Jonathan T. Treacy spoke about the
many changes he initiated as the commanding general, changes he believes have greatly improved the response capability to a chemical,
biological, radiological or nuclear catastrophic incident, if one were to ever occur.
JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. As the nation’s only federal standing chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear joint task force, “we are ready to assist anywhere in the world, at any point in time for any no-notice catastrophic incident,” according to U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Jonathan T. Treacy.
Treacy said he believes JTF-CS and the Response Force is now better postured and prepared for a CBRN contingency. Treacy relinquished command of JTF-CS this month after two years leading the unit through two response contingencies and the addition of more life-saving and rapidly-deployable capabilities in the Defense CBRN Response Force,
“The American people have a great deal of faith in our ability to conduct our missions and know what we’re doing,” said Treacy. “They expect us to conduct our missions well, conduct them professionally and to be a source of strength.”
When directed, JTF-CS provides command and control of 5,200 federal military forces-known as the Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Response Force-located at more than 36 locations throughout the U.S.
One very visible change that occurred during Treacy’s tenure was the transition to the DCRF – a force which provides more life-saving capabilities up front and new operational procedures that better posture JTF-CS and the Response Force for a 24 hour response. These forces, made up of military units from all branches of service, must be able to integrate with not only National Guard units, but civilian, federal, state and local responders in order to minimize the time needed to begin life-saving operations immediately during a man-made or natural CBRN disaster.
The transition to the DCRF “emphasized more on the life-saving aspects of our mission earlier in the response and it accelerated the requirements for our response times anywhere between two and four times less than what it had been,” said Treacy.
That transition led to the transformation of distributed operations, which was designed to posture the command to employ a smaller, but quicker, command and control element following an incident.
The key to timely integration of federal, state and local responders within hours – not days – following a catastrophe is planning and coordination between responders before disaster strikes.
“We had to think a little bit differently on how to construct ourselves within the organization and how to connect ourselves to our partners that we would be working with like the National Guard and FEMA,” said Treacy
To that end, JTF-CS has hosted a number of local, state and federal responders including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, state national guard homeland responders, and Israel’s Homefront Command Team.
If called to respond to a catastrophic CBRN incident, JTF-CS and the DCRF work hand-in-hand with local, state and federal civilian response agencies. While various civilian and government agencies may report to different leaders, the military has established a “dual status commander” policy that enables a single military commander the authority to command both National Guard and federal military forces. The concept was first introduced after Hurricane Katrina, following conflicts over coordination between National Guard and federal military units.
JTF-CS incorporates the dual status commander concept into its major training exercises to better unify response operations, according to Treacy.
“You never know what kind of situation will be presented,” said Treacy. “Having options and taking those fundamental capabilities and being able to apply it to other missions, like no-notice catastrophic incidents, we’re able to assist by providing advice or planning or headquarters support, or conducting operations.”
JTF-CS’ most recent call to action was in support of FEMA response efforts following Hurricane Irene last year. JTF-CS deployed 54 personnel and oversaw more than six hours of aerial surveillance missions last August as part of the Federal response to Irene, which wrought significant flooding and wind damage throughout the U.S. eastern seaboard.
Treacy said he will miss “a lot of things” about JTF-CS but he will most miss the people he worked with and the dedication to JTF-CS’ unique mission.
“I laid out a number of challenges through the last few years that were met with exceptional professionalism and exceptional results,” said Treacy. “I have a great deal of pride with this organization and I have an even greater pride in the people. They continue to set the bar higher and development newer and better ways in making this unit that much more mission-effective and that much more mission-capable.”
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