U.S. Army North: We're Here To Help
by LTG Tom Turner
From ARMY Magazine, September 2007. Copyright 2007 by the Association of the U.S. Army. Limited reprint permission granted by AUSA.
U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) was established as the Army service component command to U.S. Northern Command. The Chief of Staff of the Army ordered the creation of Army North as part of the transformation of theater armies to match the Department of Defense's (DOD's) number one priority, homeland defense. The command achieved initial operating capability in September 2005 and full operating capability in October 2006.
Army North's mission is to conduct homeland defense, civil support operations and theater security cooperation activities with the armies of Mexico and Canada. The Northern Command area of operations is an incredibly complex and dynamic environment, and includes Canada, Mexico and the continental United States. Its area of responsibility encompasses more than 8 million square miles and a diverse population of more than 440 million people.
U.S. Army North is located in the historic Quadrangle on Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The headquarters consists of 538 soldiers and civilians. The staff is functionally aligned to generally match the Northern Command staff.
Army North is capable of deploying two operational command posts (OCPs) or task force headquarters. The OCPs are not standing organizations, but are composed of 61 personnel from every primary and special staff. In Defense support of civil authorities (DSCA) operations, our primary mission is to save and sustain lives and relieve suffering in an affected region. An OCP may deploy to command and control active duty committed DOD elements and redeploy when DOD transition criteria are met. The task force headquarters also provides liaison officers to appropriate civil agencies and receive liaison officers from appropriate military commands and civil agencies. The OCPs do not possess any internal field-sustaining capabilities for billeting, feeding or transportation. Each requires space for approximately 61 personnel when forward deployed. That number could exceed 200, however, if the OCP is augmented by the services and deployed as a Joint task force. It will likely be collocated or in close proximity to a designated base-support installation. Of note, both OCP commanders are members of the reserve components. They maintain a small full-time presence at Fort Sam Houston and fully train and deploy with OCP members.
Army North has 10 Defense coordinating officers (DCOs), Army colonels who are permanently assigned to each of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regions. Where possible, they are collocated within the FEMA regional headquarters. DCOs and Defense coordinating elements (DCEs) are essential force multipliers and are the DOD first responders. When tasked during a disaster, they will integrate their operations within the primary federal agency's joint field office. The DCO and DCE coordinate all Department of Defense support requested by the primary federal agency. Because they are located in each region, they become subject-matter experts for the state and federal emergency response plans within their designated regions. In addition, they are familiar with the military installations in their regions in order to make recommendations for base support installations during Defense support of civil authorities operations.
The DCO has a permanently assigned staff of six officers, noncommissioned officers and Department of the Army civilians. Depending on the region, the DCO may have as many as 26 emergency preparedness liaison officers (EPLOs), allowing him to extend the staff effort. Army North has operational control of the Army EPLO program, which allows for more precise use of this valuable asset. EPLOs are U.S. Army Reserve personnel and normally drill with their region DCO, supporting planning and participation in state, federal and DOD exercises.
Army North also executes and administers the Defense support of civil authorities course on behalf of Northern Command. The purpose of this strategic-level Department of Defense course is to acquaint staff with an overview of the planning, coordination, execution and support of DSCA operations. This course also introduces students to local, state, national and DOD statutes, directives and plans; command-and-control relationships; and capabilities regarding DOD support for domestic emergencies and other activities. The course is structured as the standard baseline academic training for all Defense coordinating officers, DCE members, emergency preparedness liaison officers and Northern Command staff, including service component commands, subordinate Joint task forces, Joint director of Military Support personnel, Joint regional medical planners, National Guard Bureau and service staffs directly involved in DSCA missions. The DSCA course is available to interagency and intergovernmental audiences to provide broad-based professional development. To date, we have trained more than 1,400 personnel from all services and federal and state partners.
Army North also executes training and readiness oversight of 55 certified weapons of mass destruction-civil support teams in the Northern Command area of operations. These are 22-person Air and Army Guard-AGR organizations that are highly trained to respond to incidents involving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosives (CBRNE). The teams are the governors' first responders and are designed to assess a potential CBRNE incident and provide the governor an accurate assessment of the size and extent of the incident. The Civil Support Readiness Directorate is a 68-person organization that is divided into two civil support readiness groups, one in Atlanta, Ga., and one at Fort Sam Houston. The directorate also has the mission to provide CBRNE expertise to Army North as required.
Army North continues to mature and reinforce our professional ties with our local, state and federal civil partners and with our partners in the U.S Army Reserve and National Guard. We are rapidly becoming the recognized "go-to" headquarters to lead, coordinate and support DOD land domain operations in Northern Command's area of responsibility.
As the newest Army service component command, Army North stands ready to support the needs of the nation in any natural or man-made disaster.