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Cope North tasks RAAF to respond to natural disaster

written by Adam Thorn | February 22, 2021
The training exercise involved representatives from the US, Japan and Australia. (Defence)

This year’s Exercise Cope North military training exercise in Guam tasked RAAF with responding to a natural disaster occurring on a fictitious island in the Indo-Pacific region, Defence has revealed.

Australia deployed an E-7A Wedgetail, KC-30A MRTT and 170 personnel to take part in the long-standing exercise, along with participants from the US and Japan.

Deputy Commander of the Multinational Task Force (MNTF) Wing Commander Alan Brown noted the impact of weather events on the livelihoods of civilians in the tropics.

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“The humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission was to support a whole-of-government response to a small island nation north of Australia, which had been severely impacted by a typhoon,” said WGCDR Brown.

“My role was to provide higher headquarters guidance to the trilateral forces deploying forward in support of the mission.

“The MNTF headquarters had to reach operational effectiveness very fast in order to provide support and guidance to the combined team on the ground.

“The headquarters staff and the response force on the ground melded really well and very quickly.”

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WGCDR Brown, the Commanding Officer of No. 383 Squadron, also credited the leadership of the Koku-Jieitai team, which led the exercise for the first time.

“This is the first time I’ve worked with the Koku-Jieitai, and we have worked really well together to make the headquarters operate effectively,” WGCDR Brown said.

“We were all very keen to understand and learn how a contingency response headquarters operates and what the priorities are to successfully achieve a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission.”

Commander of the MNTF Colonel Shinobu Yamamoto said Cope North fostered collaboration between the nations.

“This year has been difficult because of COVID-19. However, the MNTF team has worked hard to integrate and form a cohesive team even under the COVID restrictions,” he said.

“Commanding the MNTF during the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief phase of the exercise has been a wonderful experience, and I have enjoyed working in this trilateral partnership.”

The training exercise, first launched in 1978, aims to improve combat readiness and develop “humanitarian assistance procedures”, as well as improving co-operation between participating nations.

This is the 11th time Australia has joined, and is being held from now until 19 February at Andersen Air Force Base.

Group Captain Nathan Christie, the Australian Commander for Cope North, said more than 2,000 military personnel and approximately 95 aircraft would take part in total.

RAAF said all personnel had to return a negative COVID-19 test before being deployed, and all would be required to complete mandatory quarantine on their return.

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