Soldiers from US, China partner for disaster training

By: Sgt. 1st Class Wynnfred Hoke

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U.S. Army and PRC PLA Soldiers receive instructions for the day during the practical field exchange of the 2018 Disaster Management Exchange in Nanjing, China, Nov. 13 to Nov. 18, 2018. The DME is an annual USARPAC and PLA disaster risk reduction event, which underscores the commitment of both U.S. and the PRC to address Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief challenges across the region. The 2018 DME focused on an international disaster relief scenario following a hypothetical devastating earthquake in a third country. (Courtesy of U.S. Army / Spc. Geordan Tyquiengco)

NANJING, China -- Soldiers from U.S. Army Pacific and the People's Republic of China People's Liberation Army, participated in an annual disaster management exchange in Nanjing, China, Nov. 13 through Nov. 18. This is the 14th iteration of this exchange between USARPAC and the PLA.

The DME is a key disaster risk reduction exchange that USARPAC conducts with the PLA each year. The DME has evolved from basic visits and briefings into a substantive exchange that uses table top and practical field exchanges to provide interaction between both armies focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

"Both of our countries know all too well the devastation, uncertainty and helplessness that many of our communities face during a natural disaster," said Maj. Gen. Charles R. Hamilton, commander of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, as he addressed both U.S. and PLA soldiers during the DME opening ceremony. "That's why this exchange is so important; it enhances our readiness and preparedness to provide aid when requested by civil authorities."

This year's DME participants included Soldiers from the 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Military Police Brigade, 8th TSC as well as participants from various disaster management entities.

The exchange occurred in three parts; an expert academic discussion (EAD), a table top exchange (TTE), and a practical field exchange (PFE); all centered on a scenario of a notional earthquake in a third country.

During the EAD, participants leveraged real world case studies and scenarios to share their experiences and lessons learned in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief planning.

The TTE examined how to promote international coordination in responding to a disaster and the importance of the Multi-national Coordination Center construct as a platform by which both armies can coordinate support to a stricken nation. ‎

The PFE ran concurrently with the TTE and covered disaster evaluation, search and rescue, medical aid, and victim collection and evacuation.

"Having the ability to sit down and have meaningful dialogue on disaster response and then work together on the practical field exchange increased the ability of both armies to respond to a disaster here in the Pacific," said Spc. Corey Hauck, 130th Engineer Brigade.

Throughout the exchange, Soldiers also had the opportunity to experience the rich history of China by visiting cultural sites in Nanjing.

For the seasoned U.S. Army Soldier, traveling to other countries is second nature. But for some Soldiers, the DME provided their first experience outside of the United States.

"Over the past week, we've had the opportunity to share food, culture, and experiences with one another," said Staff Sgt. Jamie Hill, 130th Engineer Brigade. "Many of us have never interacted with a member of the PLA, and many of them have never interacted with U.S. Soldiers. Our time together was eye-opening and we're truly grateful for their outstanding hospitality."

During the closing ceremony, U.S. Army Pacific Commander, Gen. Robert Brown emphasized the importance of maintaining mil to mil dialogue with the PLA on the area of HA/DR.

"So I think bilateral exchanges can start from humanitarian and disaster relief exchanges and expand to other areas of interest," said Brown. "Just as our top leaders work towards building a strong working relationship and understanding, we through confidence-building measures like this DME must also at our level build a strong understanding of each other."

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