By Mark Breitweiser Deputy Director, Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors DirectorateFebruary 6, 2018
During the period October 14, 2017, through November 28, 2017, I had the privilege to work with the Surge Capacity Force to support Hurricane Relief efforts. I initially spent the first four days in Anniston, Alabama, at the Center for Domestic Preparedness being trained for my new role. The training classes were 12-14 hours per day. Upon arrival in Anniston, I completed a "Skills Assessment" where they learned I was a certified level III Logistician in Life Cycle Logistics. I was quickly assigned to the "Logistics Team", as there were only two certified logisticians in a class of 270 volunteers.
On Day Five of the training, I received my Deployment Orders to Orlando, Florida. I met the FEMA Team in the Orlando Airport and from there I was assigned to the Joint Field Office (JFO) in Fort Myers, Florida. The JFO was a temporary facility that FEMA rented for a 6-12 month period. It was actually a vacated Kmart Department Store.
A vacated building was turned into an auxiliary command center creating office space for FEMA support elements. The work activities included 10-12 hour days, putting up partitions and creating cubicles, moving pallets, sweeping floors and setting up floor plans. While working in this facility, I was assigned to the warehouse and had to quickly learn how to utilize a pallet jack to be able to move supplies. We all worked as equals, regardless of our positions back home. During the initial training it was emphasized by the FEMA instructors that you may be taking orders from lower graded supervisors.
One of my main responsibilities was to set up Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) in 11 counties on the West Coast of Florida. The DRCs are a readily accessible facility or mobile office where applicants may go for information about disaster assistance programs. At this point I was assigned as the "Logistics Team Lead" and drove a box truck and was responsible for setting up tables, chairs, fans, IT equipment and providing supplies and signs. Each week the team would build up and tear down 4-5 mobile sites to enable disaster victims to come to the sites in their areas and apply for disaster aid. Many of the locations were libraries, community centers, parks and even a rodeo stadium. On average each location would see 90-300 people per day.
As a group, we embody a countless variety of skills. Each of us stepped up and shared our knowledge, thoughts and willingness to contribute. We learned together what "FEMA flexible" truly meant as it was constantly preached in class. In the end we all answered the call because we wanted to help in any way possible. I truly appreciate HQ CECOM allowing me the opportunity to serve in this capacity. I am extremely grateful having been part of the FEMA experience.