NEWS | Nov. 7, 2019

Oregon National Guard Joins International Exercise, Exchange

By Christopher Ingersoll

DHAKA, Bangladesh -- The Bangladesh Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MoDMR), Bangladesh Armed Forces Division (AFD), and the United States Army Pacific (USARPAC) hosted a Disaster Response Exercise and Exchange (DREE) Oct. 27-31.

Twenty countries and government and non-government organizations compared best practices for disaster relief, culminating in an exercise simulating a large-scale earthquake response.

Master Sgt. Robert Bentcliff, from U.S. Army Pacific Command (USARPAC), said the DREE helps develop relationships and disaster response capabilities in the region.

"USARPAC civil-military operations extends reach into the Indo-Pacific region with a focus on the disaster relief and humanitarian assistance realm," said Bentcliff. "The DREE is another engagement strategy we can have with countries inside our area of responsibility, both short and long term."

DREE 2019 in Bangladesh is the biggest yet in the country, in scope and participation.

"It's a long way from where we started, and you can see the direct impact the DREE program has had over the years," Bentcliff said. "Bangladesh, regrading DREE, has come a long way and we are pretty proud of that, that we have had that kind of impact. Each country is different in what stage they are at with building a national defense plan from the national level to the local level, and Bangladesh is progressing very well."

The Oregon National Guard was uniquely suited to participate in the event, as it has been a state partner with Bangladesh for more than 10 years and has experience preparing for earthquakes.

The Bangladesh DREE, one of several occurring with many U.S. partner nations in the Indo-Pacific region, has grown substantially and informs many smaller exchanges of more specific training and capabilities with Oregon.

Ed Flick of the Department of Defense, Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance, is a big fan of the State Partnership Program (SPP).

"From the beginning, it was really our hope that the Oregon National Guard could contribute to our overarching theater security cooperation by bringing this wonderful mix of civilian and military expertise," he said. "In the years since it has been in existence, that experience and exchange and persistent engagement with our partners here in Bangladesh have benefitted both partners immensely."
Capt. Syed Rizvan Ahmed, Corps of Engineers, Bangladesh Army, applauded the exchange of information.

"I've never seen so many different countries working together, that was great to see all the different people working together," Ahmed said. "I really enjoyed that part. I met so many different engineers."

Flick said the simulated earthquake scenario was particularly relevant for the Oregon SPP team.

"The hazard from earthquakes here in Bangladesh is not all that different from our own," he said. "In the true spirit of a subject matter exchange, there are things that we can bring from our experience and there are also really important things that we can learn here that will help us be more prepared back home."

Lt. Col. Evan Hessel, deputy director of the Oregon National Guard SPP and the commander of the 741 Brigade Engineer Battalion and 102nd Oregon Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP), shared Flick's view.

"Similarly to Bangladesh, Oregon is situated on a fault zone, in our case the Cascadia subduction zone," Hessel noted. "Also similar to Bangladesh, our subduction zone is considered to be overdue for an earthquake. So we really have a lot of things that we can share."