Rapid deployment ‘Red Team’ completes training, ready for future missions

By Beth Reece

PRINT  |  E-MAIL
The Defense Logistics Agency Rapid Deployment Team that spent five weeks in Puerto Rico helping orchestrate critical support to victims of Hurricane Maria has completed mobilization training in preparation of supporting other military and humanitarian missions around the world.

The Red Team, one of three 13-member groups ready to deploy on short notice to assist military and federal agencies during international emergencies and contingencies, completed the training at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, Jan. 16-20. The team received initial training, medical-readiness screenings and personal protective equipment there in September during the same week it was tasked to deploy to Puerto Rico.

“A lot of the training objectives we completed this past week would have been completed in October, but the conditions down in Puerto Rico necessitated our immediate deployment and we had to cut our training short,” said Taylor Frazier, Red Team operations officer.

Using a practical exercise simulating yet another disaster in the Caribbean in which migrant immigrants needed to be relocated from a hurricane-stricken area, the team honed skills like mission analysis and planning. Members rehearsed their process for determining who to send on initial assessment teams based on the environment, assets on the ground and commanders’ needs.

“The assessment team is usually anywhere from four to five people, though it can be as small as three people or even the entire team of 13 personnel depending on the mission. The team commander makes the final decision based on input from the team as each member evaluates the requirements for their commodity or area of responsibility,” Frazier said.

The training also covered nuclear, biological and chemical hazards, as the RDTs could be called to deploy to areas where NBC threats are real, Frazier added. Members were issued gas masks and learned to do a functions test in a gas chamber. For Collin Applewhite, the team’s expeditionary contracting officer, it was a chance to generate confidence in his equipment. He bravely chose to remove his mask while in the gas chamber to experience firsthand the first symptoms of a chemical attack.

“I wanted to get the full experience of how dangerous it is and how my body would respond. It reassured me that my gas mask works, and if I’m ever sent to an area where I may need it, I’ll definitely have it with me,” Applewhite said.

Although Red Team members were forced to get to know one another quickly with their hasty deployment to Puerto Rico, training as a team helps members build trust, Frazier said.

“In real-world scenarios we have to function as a team and rely on one another. Training as a team helps us understand the capabilities of our fellow teammates and learn to best communicate with one another,” he said.

It also ensures members can focus solely on overcoming mission challenges, according to Matthew Moshier, a Red Team member from DLA Energy.

“When you deploy with somebody you’re usually working with them under high-speed and difficult conditions, but training with them ahead of time gives you an understanding of what makes them tick and operate. Otherwise, having to learn how to work with somebody for the first time while deployed could, to me, take some of the emphasis off of the mission,” Moshier said.

The Red Team’s completion of training at Camp Atterbury signals the end of classroom training for this year’s RDTs, said Jeff Crosson, RDT program manager. They will continue to train using large-scale exercises such as Turbo Distribution and other military training exercises occurring at various geographical combatant commands.

DLA’s Joint Logistics Operations Center’s Mission Support Branch oversees the RDT program and uses deployment training for civilians at Camp Atterbury because it is thorough and cost effective, Crosson said.

“We send our teams there because trying to replicate the training by doing it ourselves is labor intensive. Camp Atterbury also gives us the validation that we need from medical providers to ensure team members are ready for deployment,” he continued. 

The Red Team’s deployment to Puerto Rico is the longest and largest deployment of an RDT to date.

“It was the first time we deployed the entire team, and the scope and scale of the disaster-relief effort was the largest encountered by the RDTs, which meant we were also deployed the longest,” said Frazier, who has volunteered as a member of the RDTs since they were created in December 2015.

While most members had deployed before and four had deployed together to Haiti in support of relief efforts following Hurricane Matthew, two had never deployed.

“It’s very satisfying to use the skills and training to perform a real-world mission. But for folks who haven’t deployed before, it can also be a little challenging and unsettling until they’ve gone through the entire deployment cycle one time,” Frazier added.