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Minnesota National Guard
Dual status commander clears a path for unified disaster response

Minnesota National Guard The Minnesota National Guard's Vigilant Guard exercise stepped up its real-world relevance on Aug 24, 2015, when the Commanding General of the 34th Infantry Division, Maj Gen Neal Loidolt, was appointed as the exercise's Dual Status Commander

The magnitude of the simulated incidents integrated into the Vigilant Guard exercise - including a chemical spill from an overturned railcar, massive landslides, flooding and other events that could affect Minnesota communities - prompted a fictional declaration of a state of emergency by the federal government The scale of the emergency response, in addition to federal assets being committed to the disaster relief efforts, necessitated the need for a single commander to coordinate military efforts

"Dual Status Commanders are authorized to command both federal and state military forces," said Navy Lt Cmdr Richlyn Ivey, public affairs officer with US Northern Command "When a dual status commander is stood up, it allows state and federal governments and the Department of Defense to work together on a collaborated effort to accomplish a mission or operation"

The Vigilant Guard exercise purposely incorporates multiple interagency, intergovernmental, military and civilian aid organizations that might be called upon during a major disaster This allows Minnesota National Guard service members an opportunity to build relationships with counterparts in other organizations, enhance their ability to support the communities in which they serve and practice the command philosophies that better enable response efforts

"When an event happens - and I don't say, 'if' - the citizens of Minnesota will benefit by having a prepared, qualified and unified response," said Army Col Charles Kemper, the 34th ID's operations officer "By going through these exercises and coordinating our efforts, it gives us a better chance to save lives that might not otherwise be saved, a chance to save property that might have been lost in a real-world scenario"

According to the United States Army War College, only 2 percent of emergencies require a response from the federal government Conversely, 94 percent of emergencies are handled at the local level - responders that are quick to respond and engage in communities where they are known and trusted It's during massive events, when additional layers of response are required (ie the Governor of Minnesota declaring a state of emergency and asking the federal government for assistance) that a dual status commander is vital to ensure unity of effort

The government's response to Hurricane Sandy in 2012 is recent example of a dual status commander being utilized in a real-world emergency

Story and photos by: Army Staff Sgt Patrick Loch


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