DHAKA, BANGLADESH — 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) 2019 beginning on Oct. 27. The five-day event brings together 20 countries and several government and non-government organizations to compare best practices for disaster relief, culminating in an exercise simulating a large scale earthquake response.
Master Sergeant Robert Bentcliff, from U.S. Army Pacific Command (USARPAC) says that the DREE Program is a key program for helping 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, both in scope and participation.
“There are 20 different countries at this DREE which is great and that means just over 100 individual actual foreign participants which makes up more than 650 participants on opening day,” Bentcliff said.
“It’s a long way from where we started and you can see the direct impact the DREE program has had over the years. 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.”
As a state partner with Bangladesh for more than 10 years, Oregon was uniquely suited to participate in the event, as well to learn and share as Oregon also prepares for a future Cascadia subduction earthquake.
“DREE is one of our primary focuses,” Bentcliff said. “We have been doing it since 2008 with several nations cohosting them from North all the way down to Oceana. With state partnerships, we see the advantage of inviting them and leveraging the relationships they have with their partner nations to build stronger disaster relief capabilities within the region.”
With several DREEs occurring with many of the United States Partner Nations in the Indo-Pacific region, Bangladesh’s has grown substantially and serves as a large scale exercise to inform many other smaller exchanges with Oregon to exchange more specific training and capabilities. The bi-lateral engagements have paid big dividends for Oregon and Bangladesh both.
“I’m a huge fan of the state partnership program,” said Ed Flick, Representing the Department of Defense, Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance. “I was in Bangladesh working at the (U.S.) embassy while I was on active duty back in 2008, when the State Partnership Program was established. 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. 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 was also present at the DREE and found the exchange of information to be beneficial.
“I’m actually feeling good about what’s happening because I’m being asked by my team for my input and to share my experience in using certain equipment that we are used to using,” said Ahmed. “I’ve never seen so many different countries working together, that was great to see all the different people working together. I really enjoyed that part. I met so many different engineers.”
The DREE consists of Subject Matter Expert (SME) exchanges and an exercise portion. A simulated large scale earthquake was the scenario for this year’s exercise portion which, for the Oregon SPP team, was particularly relevant.
“I think the things that our delegation is going to learn how other nations have developed practical ways to coordinate disaster response and particularly between civilian and military sides of the response,” said Flick. “The hazard from earthquakes here in Bangladesh is not all that different from our own. 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 State Partnership Program and also 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.
“I think it is very relevant to us, that the exercise for this event is a simulated earthquake,” said Hessel. “Similarly to Bangladesh, Oregon is situated on a fault zone, in our case the Cascadia subduction zone. 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.”
After the closing ceremony, handshakes and business cards were exchanged so that further discussion and correspondence could ensue. As for the Oregon team, more exchanges with Bangladesh are already on the horizon through the state partnership program, and Oregon Guardsmen will continue to share knowledge, training, and capabilities for years to come.