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Station runs NEO exercise

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Station service members along with civilian and military volunteers conducted a Noncombatant Evacuation Operation exercise here Feb. 10-12.

The annual exercise was conducted to test and train the station personnel’s capabilities in responding to an unforeseen NEO contingency in which area civilians and defamily members might be forced to evacuate. “This is an important exercise,” said 1st Lt. Kim Phillips, station operations special projects officer. “This is one of those things, no kidding, that will affect the community and this is something that in a worse case scenario you do not want to be worrying about if you’re forced to evacuate.” In case of a natural disaster or terrorist attack, the station is made responsible for the safe evacuation of American civilians and family members who live in Base Cluster 4, an area reaching from Shimonoseki to Osaka. Situations could also arise in which the station is made responsible for the safe lodging or evacuation of Pacific area civilians to a safer location. In those situations, various station components would work together to set up a NEO processing center where evacuees would be processed and then assigned temporary quarters or moved to the air terminal to fly out to safety. The exercise tested the station’s ability to conduct an evacuation safely and efficiently. Phillips said there are various procedures and pieces of equipment which base personnel have to use during the NEO and having the exercise is the best way to ensure everyone is familiar with what’s expected in case of a real-life scenario. “We need to ensure that people are prepared in case of a NEO contingency,” said Phillips. Many of the participating Marines realized the importance of the exercise as they were working their stations in the NEO processing center. Sherri Manning, a Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron assistant administrative clerk and legal specialist, issued evacuation priority numbers and compiled the evacuees into categories for evacuation during the exercise. “I’ve never done this before. However, doing this and understanding now from just this exercise, I think that I would be able to make the process a lot more expeditious,” said Manning. “This exercise is extremely important. If this were a real life scenario and people were needing to get evacuated, everyone will be up in arms trying to get out. We all need to be prepared to help those people out.” Many of the volunteering dependents found there was a lot more to evacuating than they thought. Virginia Mills and her two daughters, all station family members who have lived here approximately two years, volunteered for the exercise. Mills said thanks to her participation in the exercise, she realized she needs a better way to organize her paperwork. “It’s good for my girls (to participate in the NEO, too),” said Mills. “Now they too know what to expect. If something were to happen it would be pretty scary, anyway. To know what it was like and what to expect is important.”