Special to The Frontline
Soldiers with the 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion on Fort Stewart prepare for movement March 27 in support of U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Army North’s request for defense support of civil authorities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fort Stewart Soldiers deploy in response to COVID-19
Soldiers with the 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 35th Signal Brigade, prepared equipment and personnel on Fort Stewart March 27, as they got the call to provide support of civil authorities in response to the COVID-19 national emergency, the U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) directed last week.
The 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion on Fort Stewart will deploy to provide support of civil authorities in response to the COVID-19 national emergency, the U.S. Northern Command directed last week.
The deployment of units will enable the Department of Defense to establish a command and control framework to rapidly employ military capabilities to support our U.S. government partners in this fight.
“We have trained with our federal, state, and local partners to be ready to respond at a moment’s notice to help the American people in their time of greatest need,” said Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, U.S. Army North commanding general.
Other active-duty units supporting this mission are the Joint Task Force-Civil Support Headquarters out of Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia; the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and the 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado.
Lt. Col. John Sanders, 63rd ESB commander, said Soldiers of the 63rd ESB are providing reliable communications for medical units, logistical units and headquarters staff to support the mission.
The missions 63rd ESB are in support of are part of Defense Support of Civilian Authorities (DSCA). Teams are actively providing support to medical units at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City and have postured at Joint-Base McGuire-Dix near Lakehurst, New Jersey as well as in Anderson, South Carolina for follow-on missions.
The battalion has the capabilities to provide 30 teams in response to emergency relief efforts pertaining to COVID-19, said Sanders.
“Bravo Company is assisting with 12 teams ready to respond to requests for communication support,” said Capt. AJ Mangosing, Bravo Company commander. “Our Soldiers are motivated, trained and ready.”
Teams left Fort Stewart by means of line haul operations. Soldiers staged their vehicles in the motor pool and convoyed north to support the areas of operations in New Jersey and South Carolina.
“We used line haul operations to minimize the risk of our Soldiers being exposed to COVID-19,” said Sanders.
“It is our duty and honor to respond when our nation calls,” Mangosing said.
Led by Richardson and headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, U.S. Army North is U.S. Northern Command’s theater Army and serves as the Joint Forces Land Component Command for all federal ground troops in the continental United States for Homeland Defense and Defense Support of Civil Authorities. Army North is Northern Command’s designated lead component to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to align federal military support to validated requests for assistance.
“I have requested this action so that, as the Secretary of Defense directs it, we rapidly and effectively deploy military capabilities in support of our U.S. government partners across the country who are responding to this national emergency,” Richardson said.
In total, approximately 1,100 people are deploying for Army North in support of the lead federal agency helping communities in need. Service members from these units have already started movement to assist FEMA in New York and Washington State.
In addition to these units, Army North has activated its 10 Defense Coordinating Officers and Elements in response to a request from FEMA. These specialized 10-person planning cells, led by a senior Army colonel, are co-located with each FEMA regional headquarters and serve as the Secretary of Defense’s liaison to coordinate requests from the federal government for federal military assistance.
Army North has also activated approximately 100 Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers.
The EPLOs are specially trained and experienced military reserve component officers, who assist the Defense Coordinating Officers in each of the states and territories. Together the DCO and EPLO network ensures that U.S. Northern Command, through Army North, is able to help federal, state, local, tribal and territorial leaders understand the unique military capabilities of the Defense Department and what type of military support may be appropriate and best suited for civil assistance missions.
Editor’s note: Staff Sgt. Joseph Truckley contributed to this report.