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Joint operation Center Displacement training, Vigilant Guard 2016

By Staff Sgt. Ashely Hayes | 172nd Public Affairs Detachment | Aug. 1, 2016

CAMP JOHNSON, Vt. — U.S. Soldiers and Airmen with the Vermont National Guard moved their Joint Operations Center (JOC) for a training exercise simulating a state emergency during Vigilant Guard 2016, from Camp Johnson, Colchester, Vt., to the Army Aviation Flight Facility, South Burlington, Vt., Aug. 1. Training is imperative to ensure readiness that in the case of a real state emergency.

Vigilant Guard is a national level emergency response exercise in which National Guard units have the opportunity to work with regional civilian, military, and federal partners, in order to prepare for emergencies and catastrophic events. The JOC is an operations center for senior leadership where they can maintain oversight and planning of military elements, keep up to date on state missions, and maintain situational awareness, said U.S. Army Captain Jasen Boyd, Joint Force Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, force integration readiness officer, serving as the battle captain for Vigilant Guard 2016.

Planning was done in preparation for this exercise, and two locations were chosen as possible places for the JOC to be moved, if they were to become displaced. Boyd said the preparation also included running through the scenario several times. There was a goal set in place for the amount of time to have the JOC reestablished from start to finish.

“We set ourselves a goal for displacing,” said Boyd. “For this air flight facility, because of the proximity to where we normally operate, we set ourselves a time goal of two hours or less.”

Throughout the move, the two hour window was a sure thing. The group worked quickly to gather computers and sensitive information and moved out. However, it is not just as simple as gathering supplies and leaving. There are many details that need to be considered when moving a JOC, one being the possibility of limited use of technology and availability of electronic data at the next location.

“We needed to make sure we had an analog way to start to continue to track our units, to track our statuses, to keep up to date on missions, so we continue to have that situational awareness,” said Boyd.

For the senior leadership involved in this exercise, this could be a likely situation if a natural disaster were to occur. Similar events have happened in the past making this training even more relevant and lessons from past events were considered in planning this exercise.

“This is certainly a real world possibility,” said Boyd. “If you look back to Hurricane Irene, the state’s operation center was flooded out, and they needed to displace. That is certainly a possibility depending on what disaster comes down, that we would have to move to a different location and really continue to support the people of the state of Vermont with minimal disruption. This is practice for the real world.”

Each exercise during Vigilant Guard 2016 is meant to prepare not only the military, but their civilian counterparts, and smooth out how they operate as a team. Learning how to work together has been an important aspect of this exercise.

“Vigilant Guard has been phenomenal from my standpoint,” said Boyd. “Its forced us to work through areas that we didn’t see and helped us start to learn how we better establish communications with the state.”