Kingston Branch Throws DART at Valentine’s Day

Article by 25366 Mike Shewfelt

This past Wednesday, members of the Kingston Branch of the RMC Club and their wives braved the snow and wind for the branch’s monthly luncheon. The ladies were treated to roses and Valentine’s Day cake, and the men (and ladies) were treated to a briefing given by20859 LCol Walter Taylor (RMC, ’97), Commanding Officer of the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) during Op Renaissance following 2013’s Super-Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

LCol Taylor’s detailed and informative briefing gave the branch members a feel for the behind the scenes processes with the DART as well as for Op Renaissance itself. “DART is the means of last resort,” he said. “We preserve the humanitarian assistance space for UN agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) as long as possible. That’s based in international law. We only deploy when the host government has made a request for foreign assistance and when it’s something those other organizations cannot handle. We cease our operations when the situation has returned to something that they can take care of.”

As far as the DART team itself goes, LCol Taylor explained that there is no established unit called the DART. “Everyone involved as a “day job,” and they are all on a call up list as part of the DART. They come together 2-3 times a year from across Canada to train for the eventualities DART will face. It makes it interesting going out the door on deployment with people you don’t know all that well,” he added.

The DART draws from engineers, medical personnel, aviation units, signals units, logistic support units, and defensive/security units, depending on the needs of the situation. LCol Taylor emphasized that this is a menu of possibilities. “The DART does not deploy with the same assets every time. It’s a needs based, modular approach, one that depends a great deal on the specific situation. We can even draw on other elements of the CF, ones that are not part of the DART. This was the case with ships that deployed to support DART operations in Haiti.” He further emphasized that DART does not always deploy. “It’s expensive to send the DART,” LCol Taylor explained, “and if the decision is made that that money can be better used to support UN agencies and other NGOs, then that is where the financial support will go.”

Unique to the DART’s deployment in Op Renaissance was the speed with which the DART was the on the ground in the Philippines. DND, LCol Taylor explained, will often wait to prepare the DART for deployment until recommendations are made by assessment teams in the region and a decision is made. (This avoids any negative publicity if the decision is made not to send the DART.) “Given the nature of the disaster,” said LCol Taylor, “DND leaned quite far forward in anticipation of offering assistance. They took the risk, and the advance party was all the way on Guam before recommendations came in and the decision was made.” The result of that was that DART’s advance units were on the ground providing assistance only a week after the typhoon struck.

So what did LCol Taylor and the DART take away from the experience? “This was an international effort,” he said, “but unlike Afghanistan, there was no Coalition command structure. Everything was done through a format of mutual respect and positive working relationships. DART HQ was set up in the same room as Multi-National Co-Ordination Centre. We worked side by side, in an unclassified environment, and what resulted was what the UN called one of the best models of civil-military integration they had ever seen.”

The success of LCol Taylor’s presentation was obvious from the number of questions he had to field both during and afterwards. The members of the Kingston Branch and their wives would like to thank LCol Taylor for taking the time to explain the inner workings of the DART to them.

Ed Note: Special recognition and thanks to the staff from the Senior Staff Mess for the outstanding meal and special seating set-up for this event.

More photos by Curtis Maynard for this event

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