U.S. Army Europe commander in Georgia for natural disaster preparation exercise

June 23, 2011

U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs

U.S. Army Europe

Photo credit Capt. Audrey Gboney-Leon

TBILISI, Georgia – The commander of U.S. Army Europe observed a national response plan exercise and met with U.S. leaders and Georgian military officials here, June 23.

Lt. Gen. Mark P. Hertling visited the the National Guard Center in the capital of the Repubulic of Georgia to observe Shared Horizons 2011, a tabletop exercise designed to help the Georgian government provide civil response in the event of a natural disaster. Shared Horizons is conducted by USAREUR and led by the Georgian Ministries of Interior and Defense and includes 15 participants from the (U.S. state of) Georgia Army National Guard and 50 soldiers from the Georgian Army.

Hertling stressed the reason and importance of Shared Horizons during a press briefing in Tbilisi. A hundred Georgian soldiers were scheduled to participate in the exercise, however half were diverted to respond to a real-world incident at the Rikhoti Tunnel, west of Tbilisi, where flooding and mudslides killed five people and wounded 41. The tunnel was one of the exercise scenarios for which excercise participants had to develop a response plan.
“This is why we conduct exercises like these, so that we will be ready to respond to incidents like the one at Rikhoti Tunnel effectively and save lives,” said Hertling.

The exercise also provided USAREUR officials with insights on the processes used by the Georgian government to request relief assistance. This allows USAREUR to take pre-planning measures to provide support to Georgia in preparation for an official directive from NATO, said Hertling.

USAREUR officials called Shared Horizons the first incident management exercise between the U.S. military and a European ally. Lessons learned from the exercise will be implemented into the planning and execution of future national response exercises, said Hertling.

During his visit here, Hertling also met with members of the Georgia Ministry of Defense, who expressed appreciation and satisfaction with the continued training support to Georgian units deploying to Afghanistan get at USAREUR's Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany.

Hertling also thanked the Georgian Ministry of Defense for its troop contributions as part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, where Georgia currently has about 1,000 soldiers deployed and another 21 conducting NATO training missions. Starting next year, ministry officials plan to double the number of personnel to deploy to Afghanistan to two battalions.

U.S. Marines are currently training at the Krtsanisi Training Area here, and some will deploy with a Georgian battalion on its next rotation to Afghanistan. Developing and empowering noncommissioned officers to lead and become critical thinkers in the military decision- making process is part of the training going into theater as well.

The nine months of combined training, including a six-month deployment that the Marines are conducting with the battalion, is commendable and USAREUR will continue to provide support to MRE validations exercises at JMRC to ensure mission accomplishment in Afghanistan, said Hertling.

For more photos of the exercise, check out the U.S. Army Europe Flickr photostream.