Since February 2006, ARNORTH has trained almost 10,000 students from the Department of Defense, FEMA and numerous other federal, state, local, and tribal agencies on “Defense Support to Civil Authorities,” or DSCA (pronounced DISK-uh).
DSCA encompasses support provided by federal military forces in response to requests for assistance from civil authorities.
Those requests can be for special events, natural and man-made disasters, designated law enforcement support and other domestic activities that require more support than can be handled solely by civilian agencies and state national guards.
Lessons learned from disasters such as Hurricane
Katrina showed the importance of planning and coordination between the military and its civilian agency partners in order to best support the Homeland.
Rather than trying to execute missions on the fly once a disaster strikes, the DSCA course teaches the necessary procedures and communication in order to maximize support in a minimum amount of time.
“ARNORTH takes its role as executive agent for the DSCA course very seriously,” said Col. Mark Bertolini, ARNORTH chief of staff. “It allows for a common and shared understanding of a very complex mission which will ensure that actions are well synchronized and are never late to need.”
The DSCA course is taught 14 times a year, with an average of 60 students in each class. Senior instructor Mo Walton, who has been part of the DSCA course since the beginning, said that one of the things in which he takes the most pride is that the course is still in high demand.
“We normally have 120 applicants for each 60-seat course,” Walton said. “That’s because we are constantly updating the content to ensure it doesn’t become stale.”
Walton said that although the initial DSCA course was designed based on lessons learned from Katrina, the course has evolved to include other disaster scenarios, and now also includes response to terrorist threats.
Bob Townsend, DSCA course director since August 2006, said feedback from former DSCA students drives the changes to the lesson plan.
“For example, after some of ARNORTH’s Defense Coordinating Elements were involved in supporting the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf, they pointed out to us that we had not covered the National Contingency Plan. Now, it’s part of the course,” he said, referring to the federal government’s blueprint for responding to oil spills and other hazardous material releases.
Walton agreed that feedback from DSCA graduates is key.
“We frequently hear back from them that what they learned in the DSCA course helped prepare them for the situations they’ve been called to support,” Walon said. In the past 10 years, DSCA alumni have responded to a wide variety of disasters, to include tornados, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and earthquakes.
Bertolini commended the course and said, “The curriculum is very dynamic, covering the latest changes to the operational environment and is constantly informed by the latest developments in the Homeland. As a past attendee of the course I can say that I learned a great deal and found it extremely valuable. It has certainly allowed me to be better at my job.”
For more information on or to register for the DSCA course, visit the ARNORTH website at http://www.arnorth.army.mil/dsca.