U.S. Navy -- Between Aug. 9 and Aug. 12, Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Yokosuka performed its second annual Continuity of Operations Exercise (COOPEX).
COOP is a command’s ability to sustain mission-critical tasks with little disruption amid emergencies such as natural catastrophes, terrorist or military attacks, pandemics, infrastructure failures and other general disruptions. The necessity for cohesive and coherent COOP capabilities that enable NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka to continue mission essential functions throughout a broad range of conceivable situations is highlighted by ever-changing natural or artificial threat environments.
This year’s COOPEX focused almost exclusively on natural disasters, placing the command of 1,200 personnel—spanning multiple sites across the Indo-Pacific region—in adverse training conditions, simulating multiple severe earthquakes, tsunamis and more, leading to damaged infrastructure, loss of communications and impact to workforce.
“We are always mindful of naval competitors in this region, however, natural disasters are another threat here,” said Capt. Edward Pidgeon, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka commanding officer. “Many of our professionals remember the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and have stories to tell of what it was like, both professionally and personally.”
The first training event was a 7.5 magnitude earthquake striking Japan’s island of Kyushu, impacting NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Site Sasebo. This inject resulted in a quarter of its personnel unaccounted for, a damaged natural gas pipeline near Site Sasebo’s main building, and damage to the command’s fuel terminal, Defense Fuel Service Point (DFSP) Akasaki. In the immediate aftermath, it was simulated that afloat mission partners requested emergency stores on-loads and 100,000 gallons of fuel. An evacuation drill was also conducted and Site Sasebo’s personnel simulated immediate actions and relied upon NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka’s other sites to help sustain operations.
Minutes after, Site Chinhae experienced a simulated tsunami, suffering damage to a warehouse and site material handling equipment (MHE). Site Chinhae reached out to ashore mission partners and was able to temporarily use MHE to continue mission essential functions. At the same time, Site Okinawa experienced a simulated tsunami, completely disrupting primary and back-up communications.
“If in the event you lose all communications, it is up to you to apply your best judgement to the training scenario,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Peters, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka assistant operations officer, from the logistics operations center (LOC). “Remember to apply the commanding officer’s standing orders.”
“Your primary mission is to support the installation commander, supporting afloat and ashore units as a representative of NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Yokosuka,” said Pidgeon in an all hands announcement.
On the next day of the exercise, Site Sasebo’s conditions experienced little improvements and simulated a ship emergency fuel request despite all available forms of communication disrupted. Simultaneously, Site Atsugi was tasked with transporting medical supplies to Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo and prepared to procure 200 mattresses and 100 cots to accommodate displaced personnel. Throughout the exercise, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka’s site directors responded to each scenario inject by contacting mission partners, testing and learning alternative ways their mission essential functions could continue under such scenarios.
COOPEX’s facilitators designed the scenarios to increase interoperability between NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka’s sites, which serve an area of responsibility 14 times the geographic size of the United States.
NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka locations in Japan’s Kanto region were set to experience a simulated disaster of their own next. Severe aftershocks struck the area leading to moderate damage of buildings and causing power outages at its Navy Overseas Air Cargo Terminal in Yokota and Fleet Mail Center Yokohama. Site Atsugi, earlier tasked with delivering high priority logistics support, had lost its primary form of communication as result of the aftershocks.
“It felt like several layers of emergencies stacked on top of one another,” said Lt. Brian Lasley, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Site Atsugi Site Director. “It felt real and our professionals were resourceful and creative in their responses to the scenarios.”
Similar training events progressed throughout the day, eventually leading to a simulated injury of the commanding officer, resulting in his hospitalization with an unknown condition. In the training environment, the LOC informed NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka’s executive officer, temporarily making him the acting commanding officer for further training purposes.
“We will stay true to Capt. Pidgeon’s guiding principles,” said Executive Officer Cmdr. Howard Milligan in his announcement to all hands during COOPEX 21. “Supporting the mission, remaining a world class workforce, enabling a culture of excellence and remembering that downrange is counting on us.”
On the final day, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka headquarters experienced an 8.1 magnitude earthquake, severely damaging its main building that contained the logistics operations cell and key leaders. An evacuation drill was performed at headquarters and command leadership relocated and established a secondary LOC onboard DFSP Hakozaki, relying on backup generators and resorting to secondary communications methods.
In the exercise debrief, it was evident the scenario identified the requirement to be able to effectively communicate in a variety of ways to respond to real world natural disasters. According to COOPEX 21 facilitators, reporting speed and accuracy had improved compared to last year’s COOPEX and obtaining more forms of communication can help with resiliency.
NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka is one of eight FLCs under Commander, NAVSUP. Headquartered in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, NAVSUP employs a diverse, worldwide workforce of more than 22,500 military and civilian personnel. NAVSUP and the Navy Supply Corps conduct and enable supply chain, acquisition, operational logistics and Sailor & family care activities with our mission partners to generate readiness and sustain naval forces worldwide to prevent and decisively win wars. Learn more at www.navsup.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/navsup and https://twitter.com/navsupsyscom.