Japan Engineer District
Published May 5, 2021
Updated: May 5, 2021
Col. looks and points

Col. Thomas J. Verell, Jr., Japan Engineer District commander, interacts with local area offices remotely during a field exercise. The decision has been made to leave Japan and regroup at a location outside of Japan. Control will be temporarily transferred to an external agency until JED is back on their feet.

SAGAMI GENERAL DEPOT, JAPAN – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Japan District went through the motions of a simulated disaster April 27 as a way to stay current in continuity of their emergency operations protocol.

According to the disaster scenario, a large earthquake rattles Tokyo damaging Japan Engineer District Headquarters on Camp Zama, Japan. This necessitated the JED team to assemble at an alternate headquarters location at Sagami General Depot, some eight miles up the road.

“Our back-up office building used to be the project office for JED's support to the Aegis Ashore program.” Maj. Caleb Dexter, JED plans officer, explained. ”When that program ended, the structure was ripe for refurbishment and rebranding as the JED Continuity of Operations (COOP) site.”

A main thrust of the exercise was the concept of devolution, a temporary handover of projects and authorities to an outside organization while JED moves its personnel to a safe location unaffected by whatever emergency triggered the devolution, such as a devastating tsunami or earthquake.

“This exercise decided our preference locations for devolution and who would be in an advance party of such a devolution,” Dexter continued. “Plus, what we need to do as follow-up after the exercise to ensure a smooth devolution of projects and authorities if we ever have to do such a devolution.”

During the exercise, participants toured the COOP facility allowing them to see the preliminary layout of the building to familiarize themselves with their respective stations and site configurations. Multiple “what if” emergency scenarios were also evaluated by designated Crisis Management and Crisis Action Teams to identify the preferred course of action should the need to relocate arise.

“This exercise shows JED internal and external stakeholders that even when conditions on Camp Zama preclude us from doing our mission there, we can continue to operate even under such an adverse scenario.” Dexter said.

The exercise also demonstrated if Japan District and Honolulu District could efficiently transfer projects, authority, and funding temporarily to one another, something that might need to be done in the event that one or the other would have to relocate.

Communications were also tested between JED’s various area offices throughout Japan via the use of Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) phone systems, a briefcase satellite device where a traditional house phone plugs into a dish that beams calls directly into orbit and back to earth again. Portable generators were also fired up to make sure they were in working order and ready to go if needed.

“Being forward deployed in this Indo Pacific area of operations, it’s very important to have a series of contingency plans.” Col. Thomas J. Verell, Jr., Japan Engineer District commander said.

“But in reality It’s not enough just to have plans,” Verell cautioned. “This exercise was one of the contingency plans that we needed to practice so that in the event something really happens it’s not the first time we really have to do it.”

Japan Engineer District is headquartered at Camp Zama and operates field offices throughout Japan. The District executes the Japan Host Nation Funded Construction and U.S. MILCON programs as the Department of Defense design and construction agent. The District supports U.S. Forces and other agencies with quality, professional and comprehensive planning, engineering, construction, environmental and other value-added services.