Missouri National Guard Brig. Gen. Randy Alewel, commander of the 35th Engineer Brigade, center, greets Chilean Army Maj. Gen. Mario Puig, left, at the brigade armory at Fort Leonard Wood. Puig, the commander of engineers of the Chilean Army, and his staff were on post for a week to learn about U.S. Army Engineer practices and the Missouri Guard's approach to homeland response.
(Photo by Matthew J. Wilson)
By Matthew J. Wilson
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. - Senior officers from the Chilean Army recently met with members of the Missouri National Guard for a briefing on homeland response and how to work with nongovernment organizations in times of crisis.
Maj. Gen. Mario Puig, Commander of Engineers for the Chilean Army, and Col. Andres Silva, director of the school of engineers for the Chilean Army, were at Fort Leonard Wood, home of the U.S. Army Engineer School, for a week to observe the training of American engineers.
During their stay, they spent a morning with Missouri Guard Brig. Gen. Randy Alewel, commander of the 35th Engineer Brigade on post, for a briefing by Capt. Seth Nelson, who is in future operations for the Missouri Guard's Homeland Response Force.
"The Chilean officers were here to engage the engineer school and get a better understanding of how our engineers are organized as well as our education of engineers - that was their main objective," Alewel said. "In addition to that, they asked, 'How does the military respond or react to civil emergencies?'
"That's what kind of drove the request for the 35th Engineer Brigade to talk about the Missouri Guard's Defense Support of Civil Authorities mission and how we're different from the active component of the Army."
The Region 7 Homeland Response Force, which consists of Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, is under the command and control of the Missouri Guard's 70th Troop Command, headquartered at historic Jefferson Barracks in south St. Louis County. The force is one of 10 military rapid response teams established by the U.S. Department of Defense to aid civil authorities in the event of a natural or manmade disaster that exceeds their response capabilities.
Each Homeland Response Force consists of 570 Soldiers and Airmen of the National Guard with expertise in search and extraction of disaster victims, incident site security, decontamination, medical treatment and command and control of the mission. Under Defense Department guidelines, each response force must have a 6-12 hour response capability to receive validation.
Nelson, who lives in Chesterfield, said his goal was to simply give the Chilean officers an overview of the force.
"I just wanted to give them an overall idea of the concept of the Homeland Response Force and how we apply our capabilities to support civilian authorities," Nelson said. "We tried to give them any information that we could share with them to help them develop their response to save lives and mitigate suffering."
Because the national language of Chili is Spanish, translators were available to help bridge any communication gaps, but for the most part were not needed.
"I was expecting everything I said to be translated, but I think they mostly understood me," said Nelson.
Alewel, who lives in Warrensburg, called the brief was a success.
"Brig. Gen. Puig said it was very helpful for them to understand our homeland response process," Alewel said. "Our two systems are slightly different in regards to them being under the federal side of the house - their president is the only one who can mobilize them. They understood that we have the governor that has the authority to mobilize the National Guard without the presidential authority."
The Chilean Army does not have a reserve or guard component and Puig said he found the information in the brief valuable to the South American country whose military could be called upon to respond to anything from earthquakes, to volcanoes and landslides.
"We are a country with frequent emergencies," Puig said.
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