Osan completes first NEO exercise of the year
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
3/12/2009 - OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Approximately 600 civilians and families here participated in this year's first Non-combatant Evacuation Operational Readiness exercise, or NEO March 7.
The exercise, also part of the 51st Fighter Wing's Operational Readiness Inspection, is designed to practice the evacuation of non-combatant personnel from the Republic of Korea in the event of contingency.
"Neo is a warrior and family readiness program," said Lt. Col. Randall Smith, 51st Mission Support Squadron commander. "Ensuring our families are able to swiftly depart, and be accounted for throughout their travels, enables our warriors to maintain the focus required to complete the mission."
All the required agencies needed to exit the peninsula were on hand at the base high school gymnasium, the site of the Evacuation Control Center. Stations included medical, public affairs, security, accountability, legal and several others that covered almost every process one would see at regular out-processing.
Before and later throughout the actual process, wardens briefed non-combatants on what they need to have and do, and what to expect as they evacuate.
"The NEO involves full base cooperation," said Annette Rehm, director of the Airman and Family Readiness Center. "We make sure everyone is prepared to do their job in the event of an evacuation."
Security forces set up a perimeter, entry control point and security checkpoint. The security screening process was similar to what would be experienced at any airport.
After the screening, the out-processing began. Non-combatants were directed through the stations, with the whole process lasting no more than thirty minutes. The 110 NEO wardens who staff the ECC in two shifts came from nearly every organization across the base and are specifically trained in evacuation-related tasks.
One group of non-combatants exercised the full evacuation spectrum, processing through the ECC and boarding a bus that was taken to awaiting aircraft to depart the country, all while their luggage was put into pallets for the trip. This portion of the exercise was practiced; however, no aircraft actually left the ground.
"For me, today was different from past NEOs. They asked for children, pets and luggage," said Linda Sanders, dependent wife who has been here for the last year-and-a-half. "We were even able to get on a bus and go to the actual aircraft we would fly out on."
She went on to say when she processed through the line, the whole process went very well and smoothly.