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Cablegate: Evacuation Exercise Reinforces Amcit Outreach, Exposes

VZCZCXRO9577
RR RUEHCHI RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHDT #0289/01 2990448
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 260448Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY DILI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4584
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1343
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC
RUEHLI/AMEMBASSY LISBON 1170
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RHHJJPI/PACOM IDHS HONOLULU HI
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEHC/USAID WASHDC
RUEHDT/AMEMBASSY DILI 4135

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DILI 000289

SIPDIS

STATE FOR DS/IP/EAP AND EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CASC CMGT AEMR AODE ASEC TT
SUBJECT: EVACUATION EXERCISE REINFORCES AMCIT OUTREACH, EXPOSES
SHORTCOMINGS

DILI 00000289 001.2 OF 002


1. SUMMARY: The Embassy conducted a non-combatant evacuation
operation (NEO) exercise on October 20 as part of the MAREX 2009
combined military exercise. U.S. Marines evacuated three dozen
volunteers drawn from both the Embassy and the private American
citizen community, using CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters to
transport them from the Embassy compound to the amphibious
assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard. As a result of the lessons
learned in the exercise, the Embassy will expand its use of text
messaging for emergency communication, will establish a proper
warden system, and will update its F-77 list of potential
evacuees. Post requests Washington guidance on the hardware and
software available for processing evacuees, a State Department
bottleneck which fell way short of the Marines' NEO Tracking
System. END SUMMARY.

MAREX 2009

2. 2500 U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine personnel deployed to
Timor-Leste from October 13 to 23 as part of the MAREX 2009
combined military exercise with the Defense Force of Timor-Leste
(F-FDTL) and the Australian-led International Stabilization
Force (ISF) (septel). The Embassy on October 20 conducted a
non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) exercise in order to
test its emergency preparedness and to reinforce outreach to the
private American citizen community. The Consular Section
solicited volunteers to participate in the drill as mock
evacuees. A total of 36 evacuees and 5 international observers
took part in the day's events.

NEO Chronology

3. The Embassy Compound served as the rally point for evacuees.
Two waves of Marines arrived at the compound via helicopter the
morning of the drill, first to secure the area (assumed to be an
uncertain environment due to political unrest targeted at the
international community) and then establish an Evacuation
Control Center (ECC). The Embassy's RSO and Consular Officer
worked with the NEO Site Commander to establish three stations
inside the Embassy wall: an initial search and screening point;
a processing center to compile the personal data of evacuees and
to collect signed promissory notes and privacy act waivers; and
an embarkation point to manifest evacuees onto particular
flights. Marines escorted evacuees from their entry on the
compound until their departure on an evacuation flight.
Evacuees were processed again upon arrival to the ship anchored
offshore. After refreshments and a brief tour, evacuees
returned to the Embassy Compound and the drill ended.

Lessons Learned

4. The Ambassador chaired an after-action review in the days
following the end of MAREX 2009. In addition, the volunteer
evacuees from the private American community provided feedback
on the experience from their perspective. The Embassy learned
the following lessons and will make the following changes.

5. Means of Communication. The private American community
expressed a strong preference for receiving emergency
information via text message and not email. Internet access in
the country is slow and intermittent, particularly in private
residences, and particularly in comparison to nearly ubiquitous
cell phone usage. When a late change in helicopter availability
necessitated moving the drill's start time ninety minutes
earlier, Post sent out simultaneous notifications to the
volunteers via text and email. All the volunteers received the
text and showed up for the drill on time, whereas some were
unaware that an email had been sent. Had communication been

DILI 00000289 002.2 OF 002


only by email, most of our private Americans would have missed
the evacuation. ACTION: Post will establish a text message
listserv for all Americans in Timor-Leste and will utilize it in
tandem with the existing email system to distribute warden
messages and emergency information.

6. Means of Communication (cont.). Post was limited in its
communications by not having a functioning cascade-style warden
system. No private Americans have Embassy radios, for example,
which forces exclusive reliance on externally-provided
telecommunications services which could easily break down in an
emergency. Additionally, several evacuees expressed concern
about transportation arrangements and would have preferred
pooling resources with someone in their geographic area.
ACTION: Post will endeavor to identify individuals to serve as
wardens, particularly in remote areas unlikely to receive normal
communications and in areas with high concentrations of
Americans.

7. Substance of Communication. Many Americans reported being
confused by the specifics of the drill and expected to have
clearer information in advance. Questions included what items
to bring with them, where to report on arrival, and where to
park their vehicles. The participants in the drill answered
these questions in the process of the exercise, but their
initial uncertainties likely mirror those of the larger American
community at large. ACTION: Post will compile an evacuation
frequently-asked-questions sheet and provide it to all Americans
at the next Amcit Town Hall meeting.

8. Processing Station. The Marines utilized a hardware/software
combination it called the NEO Tracking System (NTS). It
consisted of multiple suitcase-sized packs with flip-up laptops
and machine-readable passport scanners. The packs were linked
together wirelessly so data was instantly transferred from one
station to the next and evacuees could move swiftly to the next
processing station. In contrast, our consular officer labored
with paper-based rosters and dramatically slowed the processing
of Amcits in order to compile our reports for CA and the crisis
management center. ACTION REQUEST: Post requests guidance on
any available civilian system compatible with or comparable to
NTS that it may deploy for its own processing of evacuees.
Absent such a system, Post will either be a bottleneck in the
evacuation process or it will be unable to keep Consular Affairs
and other Washington offices adequately informed of the status
of evacuees.
KLEMM

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