Noncombatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) is, as the name suggests, a plan to ensure that family members and other noncombatants can be evacuated to a safe place in the event of a natural disaster, civil unrest or any likelihood of military conflict.
In order for any plan to work, it is essential that the participants fully understand all aspects and stages of the plan. The Republic of Korea has the most heavily defended border in the world. Though the probability of conflict remains low, the potential of hostilities occurring on the Korean peninsula is greater than in many other parts of the world.
The readiness of participants will ensure that the process of evacuation will be achieved smoothly and without unnecessary stress. Noncombatant readiness is like buying insurance, you hope you never have to use it, but you are glad you have it, if and when you need it.
Unlike other insurance, this insurance only costs a bit of time and preparation for it to be successful. One of the key things to remember is that because of the limited time during a crisis, noncombatants should prepare for any contingency by having a NEO kit assembled. The kit should include a backpack; documentation of US citizenship or legal residency; a three day supply of light weight, high energy, ready to eat food; a 30 day supply of prescription medication; a small transistor radio with extra batteries; bottled water; toiletries and a three day supply of baby formula, diapers and other baby hygiene items.
In the event of a NEO situation, noncombatants should also carry with them any non-replaceable documents, about $100 and 30,000 won in cash for any emergencies, extra seasonal clothing, a first aid kit, a flashlight with extra batteries and a blanket or sleeping bag. More detailed information and helpful things are available in USFK Pamphlet 600-300, the Department of Defense Noncombatants Handbook.
The groups that will be covered by the NEO will include Military sponsored family members, DoD Dependent Schools faculty and staff, U.S. Embassy non-essential staff and dependants, DoD invited contractors - who are not mission essential - and their dependants. Others who will also be covered by the plan will include U.S. citizens in commerce and industry in Korea, U.S. citizens' alien spouses and/or children, legal permanent residents of the U.S., nonessential diplomatic staffs and U.S. citizen tourists.
In the event of a crisis, the U.S. Embassy will monitor the situation, and based on the seriousness of the crises, will put the NEO plan into effect in stages. First, the embassy will advise the American community through travel advisories and warnings. This is the voluntary phase of NEO. Noncombatants would be advised by the embassy about the changes to the current security situation and might be advised to consider departing the affected area or not traveling there. During this phase, the embassy would provide all possible assistance to U.S. noncombatants.
The second phase is more serious and might include an ordered departure of U.S. government and DoD noncombatant personnel. The embassy would inform all U.S. citizens about the ordered departure and would again advise U.S. citizens to depart the affected area.
If a situation develops quickly and the Department of State requires assistance in the evacuation of noncombatants, the the Secretary of State will request that the military assist in the evacuation. This is the third phase of NEO. During this stage, the military will assemble the noncombatants and then either relocate or evacuate them to a safer place.
Each unit has NEO wardens who are responsible for checking on his or her group of noncombatants and continuously updating the group on any new information. In the event of a developing crisis, people should stay at home or a safe place, listen to American Forces Network - Korea television and radio for advisories, and prepare to react to instructions from their NEO wardens.
In the event of a military assisted evacuation, US Forces Korea would establish assembly points throughout the Korean peninsula where noncombatants will assemble. Once the noncombatants are screened for eligibility, the military will move the noncombatants to an evacuation port or relocate them to a safe place on the peninsula until they can be evacuated.
To make the whole process work successfully requires practice. Noncombatant readiness exercises called "Courageous Channel" are conducted semi-annually, usually during the spring and fall each year. During these exercises, a full dress rehearsal of NEO is conducted. The purpose of this exercise is to train all participants in the procedures to follow during the alert and assembly phases to instill realistic expectations.
During some exercises, selected noncombatants will be evacuated through the system to test the relocation, evacuation and safe haven phases of the plan. The NEO staff uses the lessons learned from these exercises and from actual evacuations around the world to continually refine the military assisted evacuation plan for Korea.Evacuation can be made easier and less stressful by attending regularly scheduled NEO briefings, and knowing how to get there quickly. Always carry U.S. citizenship documents, a portable radio and be prepared to evacuate on short notice.
NEO Kit Requirements: