NEO in Korea – How to Prep and Chill

 

When I landed in Korea on a cold January morning, I was overwhelmed in my first week with all of the new concepts and terminology thrown my way! The Ville, Expats, KNP’s, Katusa’s, USFK, on the economy, and a long list of Korean words for restaurants and foods. Then someone sent me an email with 20+ documents to fill out and they said “Get this ready in two months for NEO!”. What the heck was NEO?! I just threw it on to the ever-growing pile of ideas and concepts that I hadn’t had a chance to deal with and forgot about it for a few weeks. Thankfully, our unit was on the ball and we had a NEO warden who made sure our paperwork was ready soon after our arrival.

NEO, in two short words, is evacuation preparedness and it’s a concept most of us don’t want to think about. I had just landed in this beautiful country and my unit was pushing me to be ready to leave it at a moments notice. Why should I care about NEO? For that matter, why should anyone care, is it really that big a deal to those who aren’t in the military?

Take a moment to go through this article, I know it’s long, last I checked I am past 5,000 words, but this is a topic that I started researching in May and I’ve struggled with how to write it. Do I recreate a military NEO brief? What about expats or non-USFK foreigners, how do they prepare for an evacuation?

This article applies to every American living in Korea and I hope it helps everyone to not just be ready in case of an evacuation but to also put their minds at ease. Prepping isn’t nearly as scary or stressful as the media makes it sound.

A military NEO has a few differences so SOFA members should contact their chain of command to attend a NEO brief and prepare their NEO binder.

Links to resources

“What the Department of State Can and Can’t Do in a Crisis.” 

USFK NEO Resources

USFK NEO Slide Show – PDF

July 2006 Evacuation of American Citizens from Lebanon GAO Report

U.S. Embassy Korea

U.S. Embassy Korea Disaster Preparedness

Delta Pet Travel Requirements and Restrictions

Red Cross Disaster Preparedness

Safe and Well Website – Register yourself as Safe and Well during an evacuation for family back home

 

Topics Covered

What is NEO?

Who Conducts a NEO Operation?

Who Does NEO Apply to?

Should I Take NEO Seriously?

Why does everyone keep talking about NEO all of a sudden? Why is this news outlet telling everyone we are evacuating this month?

How would I know if the State Department issued an alert or Evacuation Orders from Korea?

Do I need a Bug-Out Bag?

What Plans Should I make?

Aren’t you Scaring people by telling them they need Bug-Out bags and Plans?

How can I learn more and do you have any other tips?

 

What is NEO?

Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations happen during a time of crisis when civilians are evacuated to a safe-haven from a foreign country. Often times we hear about NEO operations in conjunction with civil unrest or War but natural disasters, such as the volcanic explosion of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 or, more recently, the Tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, can bring about evacuations.

Each nation has its own plans set in place for evacuating their citizens from foreign soil so for this article I will focus on American citizens being evacuated from South Korea. All citizens, regardless of their nationality, need to have the contact information for their embassy and should know the steps their governments have in place put forth in case of an emergency. All American citizens need to go here for the US Embassy in Korea, even if you are only visiting or if you think the military has you covered, visit the site anyway. It has essential information for all American citizens in Korea, regardless of the reasons you are here.

Who Conducts a NEO Operation?

Many people think that the US Military will be there to drop in with black hawk helicopters and whisk you off to safety but that is a Blockbuster movie faux pas. In reality, the military is going to have resources tied up and they will have their own goals to complete. The State Department has always been in charge of evacuating American citizens to safety and if needed, they will ask the Department of Defesnse for assistance.

NEO Prep camp humphreys korea usfk

I’m such a nerd but reading the report for the NEO of American’s from Lebanon in 2006 is really interesting!

In Lebanaon, on July 2006, the day after Israel began its bombing runs, the State Department quickly became overwhelmed by the thousands of requests from American citizens to get to a safe haven and they asked the DoD for help.  If you are a history buff, the Government Accountability Report The July 2006 Evacuation of American Citizens from Lebanon (2007) is a great read and gives a great overview of the errors and successes made by the State Department and the DoD as they safely evacuated 15,000 Americans with zero fatalities. Truly an amazing feat and the report has a slideshow at the end giving a great summary of the evacuation efforts.

Who does NEO apply to?

If you are a living or visiting a foreign country then Non-combatant Evacuation Operations applies to you, end of story. You, your family and friends need to be prepared in case of a natural disaster or civil unrest no matter where you are living or how long you are staying for.

In Korea, we have two groups of American citizen’s who may be subject to a NEO: Expats and SOFA Members.

American Expats (expatriates)  are often VISA holders who work and live here in Korea for one reason or another. During an evacuation, expats will follow alerts and instructions given out by the Embassy in Seoul and will evacuate through commercial airlines. American Expats cannot be FORCED to evacuate but they should heed the advice and warnings from the Embassy. Generally, there is no reimbursement by the State Department and only limited funds are available for travel costs. According to the GOA report on the Lebanon evacuation, the State Department waived the fees for evacuation related costs which may have caused the larger than expected number of requests for evacuation (2007, p. 6).

NEO Korea Humphreys usfk

Everyone should enroll in the STEP program to receive email alerts from the State Department.

American SOFA Members are here on a diplomatic visa and are those who live in Korea under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States Forces Korea (USFK). I know, that’s a lot of acronyms coming your way but bear with me. The difference between American expats is that Non-combatant SOFA members will be evacuated at designated evacuation points by the DoD under the authority of the State Department. Unlike Expats, SOFA Members can be ordered to evacuate the country. There are different levels of evacuation for SOFA (which can be found on slide 6 of the USFK NEO slide show PDF):

  • VoluntarySOFA member chooses to return to the states at their own expense.
  • Authorized DepartureThe SOFA member receives permission to return to the states at government expense if they wish.
  • Ordered DepartureThe SOFA member must leave the peninsula at government expense as per the SOFA agreement. An ordered departure sounds harsh but if a service member or employee is worried about the safety of their family, they cannot ensure the success of the mission. If you are ordered to leave as a SOFA member, make this as easy as possible on yourself and your sponsor and follow instructions. Everyone is going to be under a lot of stress and knowing that their families are safe is the best possible outcome for our loved one
  • NEOAll Non-combatant citizens, regardless of their SOFA status, will be evacuated from the peninsula under the direction of the Department of state. NEO means EVERYONE WILL BE EVACUATED, Expats and SOFA members alike.

Should I take NEO seriously?

Yes!!!! Evacuations are one of those things that once you are ready for it, you can relax and enjoy life. Preparing for an evacuation is essentially doomsday prepping and some people are really good at it. Surprisingly, Korea does not have a lot of natural disasters. Back home I can tell you exactly what Mother Nature could throw at you in each state so I’ve always had a bag ready to throw in the car and a rough idea of where safety is. Take the time to do some research, pack your bags, keep important documents in one place and have a plan. Finish up your prep within the first few months of living in Korea, then go out and explore this gorgeous country.

Why does everyone keep talking about NEO all of a sudden? Why is this news outlet telling everyone we are evacuating this month?

NEO Prep camp humphreys korea usfk

If the website news source has an obscure name with mis-pelled words, it’s probably not reliable.

It’s incredible to think that we live so close to one of the most reviled dictatorships in the world but when I stroll the streets of this modern, first world country, I keep thinking how South Korea should be on everyone’s bucket list of places to visit. The Korean War war began over 55 years ago and that was the last time America had a NEO operation here on the peninsula. Over the years, tensions between North Korea and the rest of the world have ebbed and flowed, and every week I hear of one reason or another that fighting will start up again. This must be what the Cold War felt like between America and the Soviet Union so many years ago, people just want to get on with their lives but everyone has to remember what is possible and be prepared.

I have very serious advice for those who stay glued to their Cable TV News Channel or have set up watch words for Norea Korea/ Trump on the internet: Ignore Them. I know, that’s bad advice, what I meant to say was take what you see on the news with a grain of salt. Personally, I find BBC to be a very level-headed news network that doesn’t try to sensationalize every piece of information coming out of North Korea. Every year, twice a year, the USFK practices the NEO operation with families and every year, twice a year, some obscure news agencies puts out headlines like “US Families are being told to leave South Korea, Now!” and scared newcomers are being told by family members back in the states to get home, now! Thankfully, Koreans and foreigners here are much more calm about our northerly neighbors and they are quick to give newcomers the reassurance they need.

How would I know if the State Department issued an alert or Evacuation Orders from Korea?

Go here for the U.S. Embassy Korea’s list of ways to stay informed during a crisis. 

  • Receive email alerts from the US Embassy – Whether you are traveling to or living in a foreign country, sign up for the State Department’s STEP program. The forms are wonky and behave very much like a government website but after you create your account, you can create your travel plans and add all of your family members to it. This way, the embassy has a count of who is in country and you will receive their email alerts.
  • Download the AFN Pacific app – Listen to live stream AFN radio to get the most up to date information on USFK notices, this is extremely useful for military and non-military citizens. 
  • Follow Social Media – Even the State Department admits how powerful social media is in keeping families updated when their loved ones check in but be sure to only follow directions and advice from official sources. For American citizens, find the following organizations on Twitter and Facebook. Be sure to type the periods in U.S. to find the correct page:
    • U.S. Forces Korea
    • U.S. Embassy Seoul
    • U.S. Department of State
    • Eighth Army- Korea
    • U. S. Army Garrison Humphreys
    • U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan
    • Other USAG Camps
    • Red Cross
  • DO NOT GET IMPORTANT INFORMATION OR ADVICE FROM NEIGHBORS, FRIENDS, SPOUSE’S PAGES, FAMILY BACK AT HOME, etc. – During an emergency, the rumor mill will be working overtime and every bit of well-meaning gossip could put you and your family at risk. Only follow the instructions from the Embassy for Expats or from your NEO Warden, FRG Leader and Command Team for SOFA.
  • For SOFA members, Receive notifications from your NEO Warden, Command Team or FRG Leader – If you do not have contact information for any of these persons, then get it right away. Every family should have a NEO Warden and FRG Leader available to answer questions and to send out official information in case of a crisis. If you do not know who your FRG Leader is, please reach out to them through your sponsor or command team. FRG leaders are hardworking volunteers who understand what it’s like to be a family member in Korea. They will know tips and tricks to helping you succeed during an evacuation and their knowledge and friendship is invaluable during your stay here. If you are unable to find your FRG leader or if your unit doesn’t have one, consider stepping into the role yourself and assist families during their stay here.

Do I need a Bug-Out Bag?

The answer is always YES. No matter where you live in the world or how unlikely you think a natural disaster or civil unrest is, there is always a reason to have a bug-out bag. Maybe your house becomes unlivable or you have a family emergency and you need to get to them as soon as possible. A bug-out bag is convenient and necessary.

I won’t include a lot of links here to doomsday prepping or bug-out bags because one quick Google search will give you more than you bargained for. Remember, we aren’t getting ready for an asteroid or a plague. Have enough supplies ready for 2-3 days of waiting at the airport or other evacuation zones. Here is a PDF on the recommended Bug-Out bag put out by the USFK on slide 10 and 11:

  • Prescriptions – Have a set of back-up prescriptions at all times. The best method to ensure that you aren’t letting good medicine go to waste in the back of the medicine cabinet is to rotate your medications. The new refills you just got goes into the bug-out bag as back-ups (or into another easy to grab container that’s out of reach of kids) and the backup medication becomes your current medication.
  • Water and Food – Wherever you have to go to wait for a flight, there will most likely be plenty of food and water but why chance it? Pack enough food, snacks and water for the whole family. Babies and Pets need to be accounted for as well.
  • Copy of PassportsRight now, go ahead and make a copy of your passport, fold it into your wallet/ purse and then come back and finish reading. Did you do it? No? That’s ok, I don’t like getting up if I don’t have to either but having a copy of your passport could make coming back to the states much much easier. During an evacuation, SOFA members are supposed to stop what they are doing and head straight for their nearest evacuation point. That means leaving everything at home and showing up empty handed. But you are more prepared than you think if you have a copy of your passport in hand, a copy is good enough for a SOFA member to use get back to the states. I can’t confirm if it works for expats but I can’t see any reason you shouldn’t have a copy anyway just in case a crisis prevents you from getting back to the house in time.
  • Important Documents Folder – Have an easy to grab folder with all of your important and non-replaceable documents in one place. Don’t spread documents around the house, this folder could even be grabbed in case of a house fire. Get it ready and make sure it’s put back in the same place every time so all family members can easily pick it up, just in case.
  • External Hard-drive – If you don’t have one already, pick up an external hard-drive for the computer and start getting into the habit of backing up your photos, videos and documents once or twice a year. Set reminders 6 months out on your calendar and then another reminder a week after because you ignored the first reminder. It’s like snooze for those of use who are bad about getting annual chores done. An external hard-drive is also useful if the computer randomly up’s and dies, at least there was a back-up of most of the files. Keep the external hard-drive in the same place as your important documents.
  • Disposable Kitty litter boxes and Puppy Pads – I have yet to find a disposable kitty litter box that easily goes into a backpack. My current plan is to buy a bunch of those foldable cardboard gift boxes, the ones that Grandma put your hand-knit Christmas sweater in, and I’ll line it with shredded paper towels to let the kitties relieve themselves then throw it away.
  • Pack a Change of Clothes and Plenty of Socks and Underwear – You shouldn’t pack up the whole closet but bring enough socks, underwear and other garments for at least 3 days of travel. During an evacuation, there is a good chance the safe place we get to will NOT be the states. For SOFA members, it’s more likely we will sit in Japan, Gaum or another nearby safehaven for a week or so before the State Department can send us on to our final destinations. Don’t forget that the weather can change drastically depending on where you end up. Pack warm and cool weather options.

    Willow Haven Outdoor

    Looking for a little Prepper humor? This article from Willow Haven Outdoor gives a ton of uses for Condoms! After watching a condom help start a fire, I have become a true believer!

  • ToiletriesSunscreen is one of those toiletry items that often get forgotten and could come in handy if a family finds themselves waiting out on the tarmac. Also bring deodorant, baby wipes, feminine hygiene products and pack extra diapers.
  • Ziploc bags and plastic grocery bags – Disposable bags have a ton of uses and you don’t want to be without. Ziploc bags will protect your electronics from moisture and dirt and grocery bags will come in handy when carrying extra items or cleaning up your living space.
  • Flash lights – The phone’s battery is going to run out real quick for midnight searches in the luggage, buy a bunch of small flashlights that clip on to belts and have one big one for heavy duty lighting.
  • Phone Cords and Battery Charger – Invest in one of those $70 batteries that charges 2-3 phones before it dies and then have a few smaller ones. We have one big battery and 4 smaller batteries and we try to have half of them plugged in every night. That way, in case of an emergency, we always have a 100% charged battery somewhere around here.
  • Small Battery Operated Radio – Have a radio on hand in case cell towers become overloaded and the AFN downloaded radio app is too spotty to understand. AFN radio channels are often in the 89-90 range.
  • Spending Money – I got some great advice during a NEO brief when a friend said to get some money transferred to Yen. Have about $200 spending money on you in won, yen, dollars or whatever your preference.
  • Toys, candy and pet treats – The kids and pets are going to be miserable but you have a chance to brighten their day. Whether you have kids and pets of your own or not, pack some light-weight plastic toys or pet treats and you will be the neighborhood superhero to all creatures big and small.
  • Paperback Book – Paperbacks can be a little heavy but boredom can be even worse for your mental well-being. If you don’t think you will need to hike over a mountain, then bring a book or two and after you finish them, swap with someone else who brought books, too. I could only hope I would trade for a trashy romance, best crisis novel to read ever!
  • Medical Kit – Have basic first aid supplies in your bags.
  • Bug-out Checklist – There is no point in pretending that you are super ready with a bug-out bag next to the front door. Everyone knows that one part of the bug-out bag is on the bookshelf, another part is in the medicine cabinet, the sunscreen was pulled out because it was the last bottle in the house before the beach trip and the other half of the bag is spinning in the the clothes drier. Create a checklist and keep it near the front door or at the very top of the bag where it won’t be forgotten. List items that won’t always be in the bag so that when the time comes, anyone can go through the list and go find the missing pieces. Examples of items that could go on a bug-out checklist.
    • Prescription Medicines
    • Important Docs
    • Hard-drive
    • Mr. Banana Face (Toy Monkey that kid will scream about for an inhuman number of hours if it doesn’t come with)
    • 2 Gallon Ziplocs of Dry Kibble for pets
    • Shut off the gas (if it’s not winter)
    • Shut off the Hot Water heater (if it’s not winter)
    • Shut off the lights and unplug electronics (except refrigerator)
    • Leave car keys in neighbor’s mailbox
    • etc.
  • Be a Community Member – No, this isn’t Walking Dead where we are all out for ourselves trying to find supplies and fight the zombies. Many people will have received the evacuation alert but won’t have had a chance to get home to grab their supplies because they were out of town on business, are only visiting for vacation or just weren’t ready. Regardless of the reasons, everyone needs to come together to help each other out in times of crisis, it’s just the right thing to do and makes the evacuation faster and easier for all:
    • Make a couple small toiletry kits with a travel toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, baby wipes and a comb in a ziploc bag to give away to someone in need. Feeling clean and wonderful can change anyone’s mood for the better.
    • Pack new underwear and socks in a Ziploc – Everyone’s bags will be stuffed but can you squeeze in one brand new pair of socks and underwear for someone who could really use a change at the airport?
    • Pack blank paper and pencils – I can think of 5 games off the top of my head that I can play with just paper and pencil. Help entertain yourself and your neighbors for everyone’s mental well-being. 
    • Pack playing cards – Same idea, keep yourselves busy during long waits and the time will fly by. No gambling though, I can’t see that turning out well.

      NEO Prep camp humphreys korea usfk

      Everyone needs a NEO book. Put contact information, copies of important documents, strip maps, checklists and other important information for an evacuation.

What Plans Should I Make?

The DoD has given SOFA members a lot of documentation and plans to fill out but those are all military focused. The following are examples of other plans that Americans may need when evacuating the peninsula. 

  • Plan to get to an airport or evacuation point – How are you planning on getting to where you need to go with all your stuff? Will traffic be crazy backed up like Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving)? Will there be any parking?
    • Depending on your destination, it could be best to walk and/or to take public transportation. Do a Google search and see what others say about transportation during a crisis then make a plan for each possibility. For Korea have a plan for traveling by car, bus, train or walking/biking.
    • Follow directions from the U.S. State Department and have multiple routes planned ahead of time.
    • Create strip maps for each of your routes – A strip map is very simple, it’s a screenshot of a map and in a program like paint, or by hand, a line is drawn to plan the best routes. A strip map can also include locations of land marks and addresses. Print out your routes and put them in your important documents folder.
    • BUY A WAGON – Have you seen the super popular wagons that everyone pulled their kids around in last summer? You should buy it. I’m serious, everyone should own a wagon. Even if you don’t think you need one, you do need one. A wagon has so many everyday uses and in case of an evacuation it could save a life. The wagon can hold luggage, pets, water bottles, food and so much more. I just saw a soldier today walking around with a brand new wagon carrying huge stacks of file folders with ease. The wagons are versatile and will have many other uses besides being pivotal during an evacuations.

      NEO Prep camp humphreys korea usfk

      These wagons are super versatile. I know they have a weight limit but if it survives long enough for me to dump it at my destination, then it was worth it.

    • Don’t forget the pets! – How are the pets coming with? Do their carriers have a strap? Do you have a wagon?
    • For SOFA members, if at all possible walk to your destination – The evacuation point is going to have a huge traffic jam of personnel preparing the evacuation and families who had no choice but to bring a vehicle. If you are able to walk, it may be the fastest way to get there. If you are out of town or not near the evacuation point you expected, ask your NEO Warden or message the state department to find the nearest evacuation point. Do not try to get home to grab your bag! Go to the nearest military base and evacuate from there instead. Remember that photocopy of your passport you made earlier? It’s all you need to get back to the states.
  • Plan for Teenagers – Do you and your teenager have a plan set-up for what to do in case of a NEO? Many teenagers have the luxury of enjoying the wonderful public transportation here in Korea with friends and no parents in sight but what do they do if they find out there is an evacuation and the cell phone towers are too overloaded for them to call?
    • Meeting Place – Talk with your child and decide on a primary and secondary meeting place. For example, the first location may be back at home but if there is flooding or storms then a shelter or airport could be the back-up location. Ask friends and neighbors what their emergency plan is for their teenagers.
    • Emergency Contact phone and email – Have your child carry an emergency contact card with local contacts and emails as well as one contact for back in their country of residence.
    • Copy of Passport – Have your child carry a photocopy of their passport at all times.
    • Spending Money – Give your child enough emergency spending won to pay for a taxi or other public transportation.
  • Plan for Kids – Do you know what the school will do in case of an emergency? When was the last time you checked their emergency contacts listed in the school office to see if it’s up to date? The CDC has a list of the ABC’s to keeping kids safe during an evacuation. 
    • Bus or Car – During an emergency, does your child know to take the bus or to wait for you to pick them up at school ? For younger kids in daycare, is there a form written out that states what the school will do during an emergency?
    • Emergency Contacts – Keep a paper emergency contact card in their backpack or coat pocket. Have a family gathering and teach the kids who their emergency contacts are and have them practice calling them.
  • Plans for Pets – For SOFA members, the only pets allowed to come back to the states are cats or dogs and the total cannot exceed two. For Expats, some flights may not take a pet during an evacuation so listen closely to the State Department for advice.
    • Have a Foster Family Ready – Just in case you have to leave your pet behind, have a friend take them in and watch them for you while you are gone. Write up a pet plan and give your foster family a list of emergency contacts and have spending money available to give them. Only trust your pets to very close friends or family and be sure to regularly have your pets meet them and play with them.
    • Bring two types of crates for small pets – If your pet can fit in the cabin as carry-on in a soft-sided carrier, it is still a good idea to bring a hard sided crate and check it as luggage. Depending on the emergency, the safe haven destination may change the rules as to whether a pet can continue as carry-on or if it will have to go as cargo. Better safe than sorry.
    • Do not use pet crates with access doors on topTop Door crates are all the rage right now but are prohibited by the USDA for shipping pets as cargo. I found Amazon reviews were the best way to see crates that have worked on international flights and to get links to the right sized hardware.

      NEO Prep camp humphreys korea usfk

      From the Delta websites. According to the USDA, crates with top door access are not allowed when shipping pets as cargo.

    • Rabies Certification – Have a rabies certification for each pet at all times in the important documents folder. They cost about $10 each from your local vet office, note the experation date in your annual calendar. If you are SOFA, you must have your pet registered on post with their rabies certification! According to the ACS brief, pets were one of the biggest holdups during the Japan NEO in 2011 after the tsunami. Have your pet registered at your on-post vet as soon as possible.
  • Plans for Home and Vehicle
    • Set up a plan with a trusted friend or neighbor to have someone watch your house and plants for you. Make sure this is someone you really know well or ask your realtor to help you.
    • Give friends and realtor your  email and an Emergency Contact for you back in your home-country.
    • For SOFA members, complete your NEO binder and your NEO warden will be in charge of your home and vehicles. Still a good idea to ask a friend to keep an eye on everything.
  • Plans for Getting Back Home – What are your plans to get the rest of the way home if the State Department only gets the family to Seattle or Alaska?
    • Keep a printout of names, numbers and addresses for family members or friends who can take you and your family in for 2-3 months. Have a few options, just in case.
    • Have some savings available or keep a credit card on hand for travel costs. 

Aren’t you Scaring people by telling them they need Bug-Out bags and NEO Plans?

Being prepped helps people get on with their day to day lives. There is nothing scarier than an unknown monster under the bed but people can stop the vicious cycle of fear and worry by researching and doing. Being prepared and ready is gives everyone the power and confidence to be ready for worse case scenarios and by being ready, there is less need to worry so much. Life’s too short to be a worry-wort so get prepped and relax. 

How can I learn more and do you have any other tips?

  • First things first: Do Your Research – I have a list of links at the beginning of this article that will help you get started.
  • Next, Make Friends – Have a bug-out bag party and check each others items to get new ideas and to share yours.
  • Have a Bug-Out Buddy – If you are flying solo, make a friend that you can partner with to help motivate each other to get ready and to travel with in case the time comes to leave.
  • PRACTICE! – Take one of your days off and practice getting to your nearest airport, port or evacuation point. Load up the kids, pets and bags and start walking. If you find out that the subway won’t allow your pet carrier or that the wagon has this weird hitch in it where you have to fold it back up just the right way to get on the bus, you want to find out problems now BEFORE an actual evacuation. You might even find a snag while sitting their bored on public transportation; is this really the fastest way? And did the dog pee before we got on the bus? Did I leave the stove on? Did I remember the external hard drive?
  • For SOFA members – Your unit should be giving family members NEO briefs twice a year. If you haven’t attended a NEO brief, ask your unit when the next one is. The Army Community Service (ACS) center also gives NEO briefs and the volunteers there have a ton of tips and tricks. When writing this article, my goal wasn’t to replicate a DoD NEO brief so make sure to sign up for the next one right away.
  • SOFA Members – We are actually very lucky that we have an opportunity to practice an evacuation once a year. The upcoming Courageous Channel is happening now and I highly encourage everyone to practice! My bag isn’t quite ready yet but I plan on throwing everyone into the wagon and hiking it through town and down to the Super Gym. I’ll update this post with everything I learn and I will take lots of pics of my very miserable cats. Having families practice a full NEO will give the military a chance to see what they are missing in their preparations. By helping yourself, you will be helping everyone else as problems are discovered. For example, I wonder where they are planning on setting up food tables, water points and sleeping areas, there weren’t any last year. I plan on bugging them and asking plenty of questions this time.
  • SOFA Family Members – Your Sponsor will NOT be there to help you. No one is going to come from the unit to help get the dog into the wagon or drive you to the Evacuation point. Set up a NEO block party in your area and make a friend that you can count on. Go ahead and get a group together to do a practice walk to the gym. You will only need to practice once to get a feel for what an evacuation could be like and, as an added bonus, everyone builds new friendships that will last a lifetime.

 

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2 comments

    • Michael Rhodrs on October 20, 2017 at 3:46 am
    • Reply

    Thank you Sig. Hoping and praying it doesn’t come to this, but what you’ve written will probably make a difference if not save someone’s life. Prayers for you and the family.

      • Sig on October 20, 2017 at 7:19 am
        Author
      • Reply

      Thank you Uncle Mike! Make sure you have a bug-out bag, too. 😉

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