Tonga Hosts Bilateral Disaster Readiness Exercises

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Training hoped to strengthen disaster relief response

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Sept. 25, 2012) – The U.S. Army Pacific Contingency Command Post from Hawaii is conducting a one-week exercise at the Tonga Defence Service's Taliai Camp, to deploy personnel and provide humanitarian and disaster relief assistance in times of crisis, if they are needed.

They are taking part in "Coral Reef" a multinational Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise (EDRE) to share information and ideas with their Pacific partners from Tonga, Australia and New Zealand.

Major Edward K. Hooks of the U.S. Army Pacific Contingency Command Post Public Affairs told Matangi Tonga the Coral Reef exercise is the first U.S. Army exercise in Tonga.

He said the exercise allows them to validate their capabilities to provide rapid humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, and how to set up a command centre when and if they are requested by Tonga or any Pacific island, in times of crisis.

"Based at Fort Shafter we can quickly respond to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief requests and provide small scale contingency under any disaster when we are needed," he said.

A Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team (HAST) is also prepared to be deployed anywhere in the Pacific within 24 hours and would be the first U.S. military force on the ground when they are alerted and when a nation requests support. Their mission is to conduct assessments on infrastructure, medical needs and provide reports on the support needed to the U.S. Army Pacific Contingency Command Post.

The exercise works together with Tonga government ministries, the Tonga Police, NGO's and the National Emergency Disaster Management office to learn how to best strengthen disaster relief response and readiness during disasters, he said.

"We are here as a friend of Tonga to exchange tactics, learn from each other and built on our friendship."

The exercise brought 93 U.S. Army Pacific CCP personnel whose first group arrived on an U.S. Airforce aircraft on Saturday, September 22. They are expected to depart Tonga this weekend.

Tonga

Major Tevita Fifita of the Tonga Defence Services said this was an important exercise by the U.S.

"The exercise also provides Tonga Defence with a good opportunity to train our soldiers with the U.S. military in different sets of skills, such as live firing skills as well as disaster relief," he said.

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