MARINE FORCES RESERVE, New Orleans --
Marine Reserve officers play a key role during natural and manmade disasters as Marine Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers or MEPLOs.
In such disasters, according to Col. David Neely, Marine Forces North chief of staff, if the Federal Emergency Management Agency needs assistance from the Department of Defense for manpower or equipment, it will submit a request. For instance, assets from each branch of the service were essential in the recovery and restoration efforts after Hurricane Katrina.
Once assistance is requested, U.S. Northern Command, the unified combatant command responsible for homeland defense and civil support, compiles assets through service component liaison officers (LNO).
A MEPLO’s job is to communicate between USNORTHCOM and MFN.
MFN coordinates the Marine Corps response to Defense Support of Civil Authorities as the Marine service component to USNORTHCOM.
MEPLOs are from the Individual Mobilization Augmentee program and will be issued temporary additional duty orders by the MFN commander to be liaison officers to a defense coordinating officer, joint task force commander or joint force commander. MFN serves as the operational sponsor of the MEPLO IMA program.
“MEPLOs, as any liaison officer will provide value in two directions,” said Lt. Gen. Jack Bergman, Marine Forces Reserve and MFN commander. “First, they give an accurate Marine Corps perspective to the combatant command. Then, they give timely feedback to the component commander.
“A MEPLO is truly a good liaison. They give a two-way balance for information and communications,” Bergman said.
There are 32 reserve officer billets assigned to MEPLO in the U.S. Marine Corps IMA program. The Commandant of the Marine Corps will order IMAs to report directly from place of entry for active duty to place of duty as directed by MFN, the operational sponsor.
The MEPLO structure, as of July 12, is broken up into seven teams along the ten FEMA regions.
MEPLOs are drilling reserve officers authorized 48 drills per fiscal year and 15 days active duty. They do not drill on any certain dates, but are allowed to drill, usually at their FEMA regional headquarters. When a national disaster occurs, and depending on the severity of the disaster, the MEPLO in the affected region will advise with the Defense Coordinating Officer as the subject matter expert in the proper use of Marine Corps forces.
“In more severe cases, such as Hurricane Katrina, MEPLOs from other regions will disperse to the affected region for assistance,” said Neely. “During Katrina we used as many as 25 MEPLOs.”
MEPLOs have been used more recently in manmade disasters.
“Although not dispatched, we had a MEPLO from Team D in contact with the DCO on the scene in Minnesota after the recent bridge collapse,” said Neely. “The MEPLO was available to advise the commanders of any assistance the Marine Corps could provide if Marine Corps assets were requested.”
“As the Northern Command mission evolves and matures, a very significant key to that will be the timely, accurate communications MEPLO’s will provide,” said Bergman.