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News | Jan. 28, 2022

Army South conducts rehearsal of concept mass migration drill

By Pfc. Joshua Taeckens U.S. Army South Public Affairs

U.S. Army South conducted a rehearsal of concept drill Jan. 19-20 based on a Caribbean mass migration scenario designed to ensure the team is ready to support a U.S. Government response if called upon.

Army South, the Army Service Component Command to U.S. Southern Command, hosted the event which included participants from other military services and U.S. Government agencies.

Maj. Gen. William Thigpen, U.S. Army South commander, opened the rehearsal by emphasizing that a potential mass migration event entails a whole of government effort to execute while also highlighting the importance of speed and critical time factors needed for a response.

The concept drill, simulating a deployment to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, provided feedback for all aspects of the operation; from command and control, to logistics and engineering, to essential services and support, including medical needs, food, water, and shelter to support migrants stranded at sea.

The effort to accomplish a mission of this nature takes teamwork according to Army South Assistant Chief of Staff for Engineering, Col. Frank Hopkins III.

“Anytime we come together with partners, partner nations or interagency partners we work towards getting the timing right,” said Hopkins. “Army South is a team of teams, and we are able to flex our capabilities within hours of whatever the need might be of the geographical combatant command.”

If ordered, a U.S. Army South contingency command post would deploy within 96 hours of receiving the go-ahead and would be capable of supporting mass migration operations.

The primary purpose of the ROC drill is to develop working relationships among the different U.S. agencies and departments to deter illegal mass migration, prevent future mass migration and encourage humanitarian assistance support from international and regional partners.

“As a united front, this drill builds relationships that you don’t know you need until a real-life operation takes place,” said Maj Charles Noble, Army South civil affairs plans and operations officer. “It’s better to have those relationships prior to execution so we can operate faster and with greater efficiency.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security, no single agency has the capability or resources to respond effectively to a mass migration event. Therefore, an organizational plan that can rapidly and effectively combine DHS enablers with other state, federal and international agencies is necessary to appropriately support an operation of this nature.

“With natural disasters and political unrest on the rise, if there were to be a mass migration event caused by a natural disaster, the Coast Guard, for example, would be divided between two major missions: humanitarian assistance and rescue operations for migrants, which one's the priority of effort?” asked Mark Kerry, a planner with the DHS joint incident advisory group. “In this event, the Department of Defense would be requested to assist the DHS.”

A primary focus of the drill is to ensure migrants will be treated in a safe and humane manner in accordance with international humanitarian standards while in the care of the U.S. military.

U.S. Army South rapidly responds to contingencies in the Caribbean, and Central and South America and builds regional capacity by working with our partner nations and other stakeholders to enhance security and defend the U.S. homeland.