Governor David Ige on Wednesday morning announced the formation of a Dual-Status Command, Joint Task Force 50 (JTF) in response to the Kilauea lava flow on Hawai‘i Island.
Governor Ige’s formal request to appoint Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara was submitted on Tuesday, May 15 and approved by Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis on Wednesday.
The formation of this JTF establishes a clear chain of command to maintain operational unity between state and federal efforts and increase efficiency. For example, Gen. Hara now has the authority to command both the National Guard and active military forces to plan for and be ready to execute those plans should roadways in Puna be lost to lava and a mass air evacuation is necessary.
“I thank Secretary Mattis for his quick approval. This joint military task force will provide the necessary state and federal resources to Mayor Kim and his Civil Defense team. Together, we are committed to supporting the residents of Hawaiʻi Island in their time of need,” said Gov. Ige.
Hara is the Deputy Adjutant General and Commander of the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard. He will oversee a joint Hawaiʻi National Guard and active duty military joint task force. Based on the current threat the JTF may be required for Search and Rescue, Incident Awareness and Assessment, Debris Clearance, Security, and Emergency Evacuation.
A 22 personnel JTF advance team was deployed to the Keaukaha Military Reservation in Hilo, on Monday, May 14 and began planning for potential missions. Pre-staging the advance team will enable faster response to requests for military support made by Hawaiʻi County.
The Dual Status Commander is a legally authorized military officer who assumes simultaneous but mutually exclusive command authority over both National Guard forces and Title 10 federal military forces. While state and federal military forces maintain separate and distinct chains of command, the Dual
Status Commander leads all military forces and directs their response efforts.
Photo: View uprift from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory overflight Wednesday morning at 8:25 a.m. Note sulfur dioxide plumes rising from the fissures along the rift and accumulating in the cloud deck. USGS photo.