249th Engineer Battalion deploys teams supporting Irene preparedness, cleanup
September 12, 2011
While most of the East Coast hunkered down in preparation for Hurricane Irene to hit last week, one Fort Belvoir unit sent teams out to meet the storm.
The 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power) deployed several teams to the hurricane's path to ensure power remained on in critical areas.
Members of C Company, 2nd Detachment, 249th Eng Bn., deployed to North Carolina to ensure emergency power was supplied to facilities critical to the state and county.
"We provided power to important buildings necessary to operations for the health and welfare of people," said Master Sgt. Roderick Jones, C Company, 2nd Detachment, 249th Eng. Bn. These facilities included police stations, fire departments, shelters, hospitals and water stations.
Teams would go out to the facilities and assess the power needed then relay that information to the person in charge of the generator yard. The "yard dog" would then get the correct equipment out to the field.
The team returning from North Carolina said the mission went smoothly, partly because the state was prepared and partly because the unit took advantage of available technologies.
"When I deployed in 2004, we were basically working with a notepad and a toolbox," said Staff Sgt. Brad Eason, 249th Eng. Bn., instrument technician and assessment for correct equipment, pre-installation inspection team leader. "With the GPS, satellite phones and computers, we improved the reaction time greatly."
Staff Sgt. Daniel Black, 249th Eng. Bn., senior electrician, generator yard, (yard dog) agreed.
"This process was a lot smoother than on other missions I've been on," Black said. "This mission took only 36 hours to get generators on site. As a facilitator and manager, as missions go, this was shorter because the state was more prepared for the disaster."
Eason added that planning was also a big factor in mission success.
"We had a plan, but you can never plan for how much or little damage there is going to be," he said.
One Soldier got his first taste of helping keep critical infrastructure running.
"We assessed a school used as a shelter," said Sgt. Carlos Acosta Castro, 249th Eng. Bn., interior electrician. "It was a good first mission for me in learning how to do an assessment."
The "Black Lions" also sent teams to Puerto Rico and the local area to keep the lights on in areas affected by last week's storm.
The sizes of the teams depend on the emergency support function they are tasked to do, which is generally power and infrastructure, according to Maj. Jayson Putnam, 249th Eng. Bn., operations officer. There are still multiple teams remaining that can respond to any issues in this area.
The teams support multiple missions, from supplying power to assessing a critical or vulnerable facility's power requirements and managing a generator yard for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and quality control.
"We assist in providing temporary emergency to critical facilities," Putnam said. "We are the only unit like this, not just in the Army, but in the world."
The battalion has companies across the world ready to respond to any emergency.
"The 249th is vital to emergency operations when it come to natural disasters throughout the country," added Jones. "We're here to help when help is needed."