Always ready: Inside look at Joint Task Force Civil Support preparing for 2022 hurricane season

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Posted at 4:19 PM, Jun 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-01 17:55:02-04

FT. EUSTIS, Va. - Wednesday, News 3 got an inside look at Joint Task Force Civil Support (JTF-CS) at Fort Eustis.

“We remain prepared and ready,” Army Maj. Frank Kirbyson told News 3.

Kirbyson has been with the task force for more than two years.

The Ft. Eustis-based group is ready to deploy within 24 hours and provides command and control of 5,200 service members to support FEMA when called upon to help save lives, as well as provide temporary critical support when a community is recovering.

For more than two years, the team has been at the forefront of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) COVID response operations helping administer millions of vaccines.

But now, they're expanding its mission to include all catastrophic hazards, including hurricanes.

“After having been utilized across the nation for a series of COVID responses, they realized that expanding our mission is probably a great worth for potential emergency response,” Kirbyson said.

Part of the task force’s headquarters is their 24/7 joint operations center, where crews get intel and awareness, assessing situations even before the DOD gets involved.

“Gaining as much information as we can, do the analysis on the plan [and] identify those likely areas that we would spot,” Kirbyson said.

From there, incident support teams gear up with trucks maintained and stocked at Ft. Eustis, inspected and weighed before being flown to various locations with command posts set up with satellite technology.

These posts allow service members to communicate with JTF-CS staff at Ft. Eustis about conditions on the front lines.

“That supports the commander in his element as they move forward as well,” Kirbyson said.

The last named storm to involve a response by JTF-CS was Super Storm Sandy back in 2012.

The group deployed to New Jersey to coordinate response efforts for more than 1,900 military responders.

When asked about NOAA's prediction for an above normal Atlantic hurricane season, Kirbyson said preparation and training will be key.

“One thing we learned with the COVID response is our ability to quickly adapt and conduct operations in multiple locations,” he said. “We’ve got the hurricane operational plan. In addition to that, we’ve got individual playbooks that are contingent on where a hurricane might make landfall, gulf coast versus east coast, that kind of walk us through what that response would look like [and] unique to each area.”

Now that the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season is underway, the team will continue training more specifically for hurricane response.