OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- A Noncombatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) exercise was held at Osan Air Base from Oct. 24-27. Exercise Courageous Channel 2017 provided more than 1,700 members from the base an opportunity to learn and understand the evacuation process to be better prepared in case a real-world incident were to happen.
“This exercise allows our families to simulate doing an evacuation, so they can have an idea of what to do if a real NEO was to occur,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Alana Westley, 51st Force Support Squadron Airman & Family Readiness Center readiness NCO.
A NEO is directed by the Department of State and is intended to evacuate people whose lives are in danger from locations in a foreign nation to an appropriate safe haven.
“It’s for all our Department of Defense civilians, non-mission essential civilians, dependents and contractors,” said Westley. “Anyone that does not have to stay on the base to defend it will be evacuated. So [the exercise] is for everyone to practice their roles in a NEO evacuation to get off the peninsula.”
The noncombatant evacuees are notified by NEO wardens assigned to their unit. Once notified, NCE’s must gather essential items such as clothes, passports, gas masks and other important documents needed for the processing line.
“In the event of an actual NEO, the NEO wardens will alert our family members to let them know the reporting instructions. The assembly point is here at the [base] which is why we practice here,” said Westley. “We have all the agencies here and [the NCE’s] essentially out-process from the base. They go through all the supporting agencies, turn in their forms and then they will leave.”
It’s critical for NCE to understand this process because conflicts or natural disasters that may initiate a NEO can be unpredictable.
“Knowing this type of information is extremely important. Especially with my husband being in the military, he’s going to be staying here. I need to know what to do and be prepared to help my family, as well as other people who may feel uncomfortable [with this process],” said Elffie LaChance, military spouse. “This exercise provides me with the knowledge of how to do these things if the time ever comes [that we may be evacuated].”
Exercise Courageous Channel 2017 is a great way for individuals to ensure that everything they may need in a real scenario is in order. Doing so can help make their evacuation process run smoother.
“Having this knowledge of the process makes me feel much more comfortable,” said LaChance. “I recommend people go through this, it may not happen, but still be prepared.”