Second British official taps National Guard disaster response know-how

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From left, Lt. Col. Christopher Mickan, of the Missouri National Guard's 70th Troop Command, briefs Elka Charren of the U.S. State Department and Rushanari Ali, a Member of British Parliament, on the Guard response to recent natural disasters both in Missouri and abroad. (Bill Phelan photo)


Bill Phelan

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. - British government officials continue to tap the disaster response expertise of the Missouri National Guard.

Rushanari Ali, a Labour Party Member of Parliament from London, was the latest official from across the pond to be briefed on the Guard's response to tornados and flooding by leaders of the 70th Troop Command at Jefferson Barracks. She was accompanied by Elka Charren of the U.S. State Department, who sponsored her April 6 St. Louis-area visit. Mrs. Ali's trip comes on the heels of a similar fact-finding mission last year by Mark Phillips, a national security advisor to the British House of Lords.

As Great Britain has no National Guard, British officials are keen to learn how the Guard coordinates its response to manmade and natural disasters both with the United States and abroad. As such, Ali was briefed by Troop Command personnel on the Missouri Guard response to the St. Louis and Joplin tornados, the flooding across the state last year and the February ice storm.

"What is really interesting about what the National Guard does is the way they respond to domestic problems ranging from tornados to flooding to any other type of national emergency," said Ali. "The support for your civilian population is amazing. There is a lot of interest within my party about how such things are done in the U.S. and how some of this information could be shared between the United Kingdom and the United States."

When Ali questioned whether the National Guard ever responds to disasters outside the U.S., she was briefed on the Guard mission to Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Ali also asked how the National Guard coordinates disaster response between states.

"For me, this has been really informative because our system is very different," she said. "In the United Kingdom the police are the lead agency and we largely rely on our police to respond to a whole mix of national emergencies. Rarely would we activate our reserve Army for such things."

Command Sgt. Maj. Jay Marsden, Troop Command's senior noncommissioned officer, said it was an honor to brief to a British official on the National Guard mission.

"It was a privilege discussing how the Missouri National Guard operates in many environments from combat operations to working with local agencies in times of need for our citizens," Marsden said. "We also discussed assisting other states when they have a disaster and how our soldiers are the best at what they do. This is a volunteer force that is always ready when bad things happen to good people."

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