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Pacific edition, Thursday, May 17, 2007

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Representatives from 18 private companies will participate in this weekend’s noncombatant evacuation operation exercise, the first time civilians with no family or employment ties to the military have participated in the semi-annual exercises.

The 25 human resources managers from companies with American employees, including Coca-Cola, Exxon, Boeing and the American Chamber of Commerce, will show their passports to military officials, get cataloged and receive identification bracelets — the same steps that military family members follow during the mass-evacuation drills, said Air Force Col. Cam Torrens, head of the NEO exercise.

The exercise, May 17-20, will show the HR managers what their employees will have to do in case of an attack on South Korea, he said.

“I think this exercise should put some of them at ease,” he said.

The U.S. military could be responsible for moving 140,000 civilians out of South Korea during a real attack, he said, including 15,000 military spouses, dependents and civilian government workers; 100,000 U.S. nationals; and approximately 25,000 nationals from other countries.

Only the 15,000 military dependents, civilian Department of Defense employees, and — for the first time — civilian contractors are required to participate in NEOs, meant to give the military a chance to practice and refine its evacuation procedures in case of a real attack.

The drills are important because of the sheer number of people who would have to be moved off the Korean peninsula by plane or ferry to Japan, Torrens said.

“Nobody else in the world deals with this problem set,” he said. “Most of them cap out at about 10,000 or 12,000 people, max, so nobody else is looking at the things we’re looking at.”

Torrens said USFK officials studied last year’s U.S. military evacuation of 8,000 to 15,000 civilians from Lebanon, and learned a few practical lessons. Among them:

n Carry seasickness pills on ferries during evacuations.

n Provide enough waterproof sheets for cots to accommodate scared children who wet the bed

n Pass out water in half-liter instead of two-liter bottles, which the Lebanon evacuees often discarded half full.

For the first time, NEO participants were supposed to be given the option of pre-registering online, but the Web site had not been set up as of Tuesday, officials said.

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