Military and Reserve Troops

Discussion week 1

Since Hurricane Katrina, there has been greater use of the military in disaster preparation, response, and recovery. Research and discuss the process for activating federal and state reserve troops for disaster events, including authorization, deployment, recovery, and demobilization. Who is ultimately in charge of the military when used in civilian disaster response? What are the pros and cons of utilizing the military? Consider the use of troops for civil disturbances and protest/ riot control- is this efficacious to use when regaining order to avoid a larger disaster?

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Events to Consider: 

Hurricane Karina Hurricane Sandy Hurricane Mitch Hurricane Maria

Gulf Oil Spill Hurricane Irene Sukuiso Tsunami Miss. Desegregation (1962-63)

Ferguson Riots Hurricane Harvey CA Wildfires Haiti Earthquake (2010)

The process for activating federal and state reserve troops for disaster events is long and tedious. The reserve troops can only be called to service by the secretary of defense for not more than 15 days at a time. The period during which the reserve troops can serve is stipulated in the law, and the government cannot force them to work beyond their hours. The deployment is sometimes voluntary when the reservist requests for activation. The chain of command works on the communication details. The activation and deactivation of the reservists follow protocol. This means that, at all times the government is in control of the operations of the reserve troops in the civilian world.

When the military is used in civilian disaster response situations, the civilian federal authority is in charge of the military. It is because of this that the military’s help is invoked for its expertise but the fact that it is a disaster and not a war zone, and is a supplementary response team (Dunlap, 2017). The use of troops to sort out civil disturbances is unnecessary. It creates an illusion to the civilians that it is now a violent period and can trigger unprecedented violence. Utilizing the military is an option that the civilian authorities should only use when it is necessary. It should be a last resort option for any civilian matter except for the cases where the disaster requires the involvement of as many trained personnel as possible on hand like a forest fire or a high magnitude natural disaster. The dangers of bringing in the military where it is not necessary are that it creates tensions between the military and other authorities in terms of command. It is a problem that is fuelled by the assumption that the military is superior to all the other bodies. 


Dunlap, C., (2017, September 21). Disasters and Emergencies: Legal authorities and the military’s role. Retrieved from Law Fire:

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