By Edward RiveraMarch 9, 2018
Capt. Vu Mai, Engineer Officer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers North Atlantic Division in Fort Hamilton, N.Y., has been deployed to Puerto Rico for more than 45 days in support of Hurricane Maria response and recovery operations.
Mai, is relatively new to the Corps and before deploying to Puerto Rico, his six months on the job in the division's operations office had prepared him for the challenges of his first USACE disaster response.
"I work with the Emergency Operation Center on their day to day operations, ensuring that we get the right people to the right places during emergency response," said Mai a native of Buffalo, N.Y. "This means getting engineers and other needed personnel to support critical missions that arise in the U.S. due to man-made or natural disasters."
After spending six months coordinating the arrival and departure of disaster responders, he was selected to deploy to Puerto Rico to get his first look at a disaster response with the Corps. Mai served with Hurricane Maria Task Force Power Restoration as the Current operations Battle Captain. In his position as an operations officer he was responsible for the dissemination of all incoming and outgoing information and tasking's, dubbed the "nerve center," by his fellow battle captains.
"Captain Mai is an extraordinary professional, engineer and Army officer," said Lt. Col. Cullen Jones, deputy commander, TF Power Restoration. "He has been a consummate staff officer in support of the power restoration mission coordinating, analyzing, and verifying requirements. His efforts provided daily situation awareness, understanding and options to the command and positively impacted how we develop unique engineering solutions for one of the nation's toughest challenges here in Puerto Rico."
One of the hardest challenges Mai encountered in Puerto Rico was the organization dynamics. "There are a lot of moving pieces, between FEMA, USACE, and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority working together. This takes a lot of synchronization to ensure safety for all personnel on the ground."
Mai said working within USACE has been one of the best assignments in his military career thus far. He enjoys working with all the very professional and compassionate people he's met throughout the U.S., and the world.
"I have a lot of pride in supporting the people Puerto Rico," said Mai a 2010 graduate of the Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Ga. "It is our duty to support fellow Americans when they are in trouble. I served with many people from the commonwealth in the Army and we see no difference in helping them as would help any other American."