In 1981, then Mayor Dianne Feinstein founded San Francisco Fleet Week as a celebration of naval services rolling out the red carpet for Sailors, Marines, Coasties, and their families, with a parade of ships, a spectacular air show, and neighborhood festivities.

By 2009, now Senator Feinstein recognized the need to reinvigorate Fleet Week. Joining forces with former Secretary of State George P. Shultz, they tapped Major General J. Michael Myatt (USMC, Ret.) to lead the effort. General Myatt established the non-profit San Francisco Fleet Week Association (SFFWA). Community volunteers were brought together to form a new Board of Directors, including Lewis Loeven, former CIO for the City and County of San Francisco. Mr. Loeven was named Executive Director of the Board and together with General Myatt developed the vision for the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) Program.

Then, this innovative leadership team partnered with the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management to maximize the impact of the traditional liberty call, forging a network of new partnerships with the military, civilian governments, and private industry. The resulting San Francisco Fleet Week Center for Humanitarian Assistance (the Center) is a unique public-private partnership for civilian/military training and education programs that address the regional, national, and international need to prepare and respond to crises.

The Center’s signature event is the annual Senior Leaders Seminar (SLS). The SLS brings over 150 government, military, and private sector leaders from around the world for two days of sharing best practices through panel discussions, exercise reviews, and presentations. Additionally, emergency responders and military leaders convene for tabletop and live joint civilian/military exercises, urban search and rescue training, and public education programs.

Since 2010 the HADR Program includes public outreach events such as the Humanitarian Assistance Village, where the general public can get a first-hand look at a shock trauma platoon in action and observe portable water purification systems in operation. They can also learn about how to prepare for a disaster and gain knowledge from civilian/military personnel regarding humanitarian assistance and disaster response capabilities that their organizations may be able to provide in the event of a catastrophic situation.

In 2011, the Center began its exercise program with a Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) Tabletop Exercise to learn the process of how military resources could assist post catastrophic event. That year the program created an international session after the SFFWA organized a fact-finding mission to Van, Turkey, following an earthquake in a remote region near the Iranian border. A team made up of representatives from the City and County of San Francisco and the private sector met with local officials in Van and provided recommendations on recovery and mitigation. An informative report was developed for the Mayor of San Francisco and humanitarian assistance supplies were sent to the region through the SFFWA. The Van Mission, as well as the 2011 T ¯ohoku, Japan earthquake, were presented at the SLS. Other topics included the roles of social media and community organizations in disaster response.

In 2012, the Center hosted a command and control functional exercise, a communications drill, and the Peer-to-Peer Medical Exchange. At the SLS, attendees heard from speakers and panels on cyber security law enforcement in disaster response, and firefighting and other domestic disaster response and recovery missions. The international session covered foreign response missions in Chile and other countries.

In the spring of 2013, the Center embarked upon another foreign mission, visiting Haifa, Israel, with representatives from the City and County of San Francisco and the San Francisco-Haifa Sister City Committee. The delegation organized a symposium on disaster preparedness, and later visited hospitals and emergency operations centers. The Israel Mission was followed by a visit to Al Zaatari, a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, where the delegation toured the camp and interviewed the camp manager on the refugee crisis. With the shutdown of the U.S. government, and Fleet Week cancelled, The Center created its first Speakers Series where representatives spoke on the international refugee crisis.

In 2014, the Center and its partners focused on continuity of operations and the linkages between government operations and commercially owned lifeline infrastructures in disaster situations. The United States Marine Corps’ medical Shock Trauma Team arrived at the United States Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco via MV-22 Osprey aircraft and joined the Shock Trauma Platoon/Forward Resuscitative Surgical System (STP/FRSS) set up at San Francisco Zuckerberg General Hospital. These medical and air teams demonstrated the military’s capability to enhance overall patient care within the city following a large-scale disaster. The SLS hosted speakers on resiliency, as well as discussion groups on fuel and power, logistics, and search and rescue. The international session included representatives from the Philippines discussing the response to both Typhoon Yolanda and a simultaneous major earthquake.

In 2015, the Center hosted a full-scale exercise focused on the delivery of resources via US Navy Landing Craft Utility (LCU) to the Port of San Francisco. An MV-22 conducted a load drill with the federal US&R Teams 3 & 4 at Moffett Field. The Center’s international session looked at Nepal and the earthquake response. Other sessions included International Public Health in Disaster Response, Technology and Communications, discussion groups on energy, auxiliary power, fuel transfer, and communications. The keynote speaker was Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz.

In 2016, San Francisco executed the DSCA Commodity Points of Distribution (C-PODs) Exercise, including the delivery of resources from a USN vessel via LCU to a ramp next to Pier 50. The resources were transported to a predetermined C-POD location for continuation of the exercise. Testing this last tactical mile helped to ensure that if San Francisco’s ingress/egress points were limited due to damaged infrastructure, resources would still be able to flow into the city. The Center’s SLS focused on the international refugee crisis and the role of foreign assistance, while taking a look at both mechanisms for response and the future of recovery. The second day of the Seminar took an in-depth look at innovations in technology and energy while analyzing risk communications and supply chain disruption.

Building on the lessons learned from the 2011 Fleet Week Medical Tabletop Exercise, the 2017 Fleet Week Exercise Program focused on the logistical requirements for local, regional, State, and Federal entities to support medical surge and logistical operations following a catastrophic earthquake. The exercise emphasized the methods in which logistical needs are identified, communicated, and managed among these entities, with a specific focus on the California National Guard and the US Department of Defense (DoD).

The Center continues to organize training, exercise, and education programs and to work with its many other partners to ensure delivery of valuable information that can be leveraged in support of civilian and military humanitarian assistance and disaster missions.