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Army battalion lauds Brunswick's operations and preparedness

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By Caroline Curran, Reporter

BOLIVIA—Members of the U.S. Army’s 97th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) all agree—Brunswick County’s emergency operations are spot-on.

As part of their practice before deploying overseas, members of the Civil Affairs Battalion’s Charlie Company were in Brunswick County for five days to evaluate the county’s infrastructure operations and preparedness, Maj. Tyler Wilson explained.

Of the five counties the company has evaluated, Brunswick County had the most complex emergency operations, Wilson said.

“Probably the best we’ve seen—it’s phenomenal,” he added.

The county was evaluated in different fields, including infrastructure, administration and logistics, security, emergency preparedness and medical facilities.

Teams evaluated the county’s preparedness in each of the fields, offering recommendations and identifying vulnerabilities in each of the facets of preparedness.

In the infrastructure field, battalion members evaluated the county’s public utilities department, BEMC, the Brunswick Nuclear Plant, N.C. Department of Transportation and pipelines. Deficiencies found in the infrastructure components almost all included funding shortages.

When evaluating the county’s emergency logistics, Capt. Matt Quinn said battalion members were “really impressed,” with the county’s emergency preparedness plans, including using county schools as emergency shelters. Emergency officials would benefit from a supply distribution drill, Quinn said.

Maj. Tad Gilbert suggested emergency management staff attend stressed-based leadership classes and continue education in their respective fields. Gilbert also suggested the emergency services department works to improve the county’s reverse 911 system to include cell phone calls and text messages.

Capt. Charlie Claypool praised the county’s redundancies in security and disaster management, including the county’s various public safety organizations.

Randy Thompson, the county’s director of emergency services, said it was an honor to have the Civil Affairs Battalion evaluate the county’s operations and management.

The Civil Affairs Battalion was charged with identifying benefits, redundancies and deficiencies in the county’s infrastructure to create a model system, Thompson said.

Thompson said work was already under way to improve the deficiencies identified by battalion members, even before they came to Brunswick County.

After Thompson thanked battalion members and praised their work overseas, Lt. Col. James Brown, commander of the 97th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, thanked Thompson for his department’s work.

When deployed overseas, Brown said battalion members “depend on people on the home front.”

“We hold the same thankfulness toward what you guys represent, and taking care of our families,” Brown said.

Civil Affairs Battalion

Thirty-two members make up the 97th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), and when deployed overseas, they provide military command with expertise on the civil component of the battlefield. Battalion members are charged with five core tasks when overseas: populous and resource control, foreign humanitarian assistance, civil information management, nation assistance and support to civil administration.

The members of the Civil Affairs Battalion Charlie Company are getting ready to deploy to the Philippines for what should be a six-month tour, Wilson said.

While stationed in the Philippines, Charlie Company soldiers will assist in the Philippine government in their counter-insurgency efforts in the Southern Philippines, he said. Insurgency efforts in the Southern Philippines are being led by two terrorist organizations—Abu Sayyaf, which has ties to al-Qaeda, and the Indonesian terrorist network of Jemaah Islamiyah, Wilson said.

While battalion members will be stationed in an offensive counter-insurgency area, they will serve strictly in and advisory role, Wilson said.