CISM: Helping to relieve workplace exhaustion during Hawaii deployment
1 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Critical Incident Stress Management team lead Lisa Bishop and Amanda Jackson Mojica, a chemist from U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Fort Worth District, chat at the Emergency Field Office in Lahaina on the island of Maui during the recovery mission, Dec. 31, 2023.

Lisa Bishop and Diane Gilbert, CISM specialists at the Recovery Field Office in Kihei, Maui, arranged for two therapy dogs, Kodi and Koko Bear, to visit the men and women at the Emergency Field Office in Lahaina. The 8-year-old Labrador retrievers give kisses, allow hugs and belly rubs, but more importantly reduce stress for the team at the EFO, (Photo Credit: Carol Vernon)
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CISM: Helping to relieve workplace exhaustion during Hawaii deployment
2 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Rick Weixelbaum, a debris expert the Hawaii recovery mission from U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District, takes a moment away from his regular tasks to unwind with Kodi, the therapy dog, Dec. 31, 2023, at the Emergency Field Office in Lahaina, Maui.

Lisa Bishop and Diane Gilbert, CISM specialists at the Recovery Field Office in Kihei, Maui, arranged for two therapy dogs, Kodi and Koko Bear, to visit the men and women at the Emergency Field Office in Lahaina. The 8-year-old Labrador retrievers give kisses, allow hugs and belly rubs, but more importantly reduce stress for the team at the EFO. (Photo Credit: Carol Vernon)
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CISM: Helping to relieve workplace exhaustion during Hawaii deployment
3 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Jun Robbins, office engineer for the Hawaii recovery mission from U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Fort Worth District, takes a moment away from her regular tasks to unwind with Koko, the therapy dog, Dec. 31, 2023, at the Emergency Field Office in Lahaina, Maui.

Lisa Bishop and Diane Gilbert, CISM specialists at the Recovery Field Office in Kihei, Maui arranged for two therapy dogs, Kodi and Koko Bear, to visit the men and women at the Emergency Field Office in Lahaina. The 8-year-old Labrador retrievers give kisses, allow hugs and belly rubs, but more importantly reduce stress for the team at the EFO. (Photo Credit: Carol Vernon)
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CISM: Helping to relieve workplace exhaustion during Hawaii deployment
4 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Charles Delano, a public affairs specialist for the Hawaii recovery mission from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District, takes a moment away from his regular duties to unwind with Kodi, the therapy dog, Dec. 31, 2023, at the Emergency Field Office in Lahaina, Maui.

Lisa Bishop and Diane Gilbert, CISM specialists at the Recovery Field Office in Kihei, Maui arranged for two therapy dogs, Kodi and Koko Bear, to visit the men and women at the Emergency Field Office in Lahaina. The 8-year-old Labrador retrievers give kisses, allow hugs and belly rubs, but more importantly reduce stress for the team at the EFO. (Photo Credit: Carol Vernon)
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CISM: Helping to relieve workplace exhaustion during Hawaii deployment
5 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Lisa Bishop (standing right) and Diane Gilbert (standing right, middle), CISM specialists at the Recovery Field Office in Kihei, Maui arranged for two therapy dogs, Kodi and Koko Bear, to visit the men and women at the Emergency Field Office in Lahaina, Dec. 31, 2023. The 8-year-old Labrador retrievers give kisses, allow hugs and belly rubs, but more importantly reduce stress for the team at the EFO. (Photo Credit: Carol Vernon) VIEW ORIGINAL
CISM: Helping to relieve workplace exhaustion during Hawaii deployment
6 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Brian Brandt, the resident engineer for the Hawaii recovery mission from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District, takes a moment away from his regular duties to unwind with Kodi, the therapy dog, Dec. 31, 2023, at the Emergency Field Office in Lahaina, Maui.

Lisa Bishop and Diane Gilbert, CISM specialists at the Recovery Field Office in Kihei, Maui arranged for two therapy dogs, Kodi and Koko Bear, to visit the men and women at the Emergency Field Office in Lahaina. The 8-year-old Labrador retrievers give kisses, allow hugs and belly rubs, but more importantly reduce stress for the team at the EFO. (Photo Credit: Carol Vernon)
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According to a recent health insurance company report, nearly six out of 10 workers in the U.S. have experienced at least moderate levels of workplace fatigue.

The insurance company compiled the report using standards. It could not foresee the dedicated efforts of the individuals assisting the communities of Lahaina and Kula on Maui Island to restore normalcy. Approximately 70 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, men, and women, are actively engaged in the Federal Emergency Management Agency assigned Hawaii Wildfires Recovery Mission. Their tasks include debris removal, temporary housing design, and temporary elementary school construction.

"Every day is something different," said Jerry Breznican, the Recovery Field Office deputy/chief of staff in Kihei, Maui. "It's a very fast train. It moves quickly. I won't say it's a gouging schedule, but the folks have to stay aware of what is happening."

Some USACE personnel have been on Maui since FEMA first assigned the mission in August. As important as this mission is, 147 days is a long time to be away from home, family, and friends, but also to stay fresh and keep your head in the mission.

Understanding the toll such a schedule, timeframe, and mission can have on the mind, body, and spirit, USACE brought in a specialized team to provide balance, solutions for stress and fatigue, and a caring ear when needed.

The Critical Incident Stress Management team consists of two specially trained individuals who are not removing debris, building temporary schools, or working on the temporary housing team. Still, they are a vital part of the recovery mission.

"You have got to find your time, even if it's here at work," said Breznican. "You have to find a way to disengage. You can't concentrate on work for 12 hours. You have to take that break, even just going out to walk around the block, sitting outside, or even going into the hallway for a minute. Whether it's five or 10 minutes to step away or 30 minutes for lunch, you have to find a way to disconnect."

According to the USACE website, CISM is a peer-driven stress management program that combines pre-crisis preparation, stress education, and post-event response to help people recover more quickly from abnormally stressful job-related incidents and trauma. CISM reminds employees, especially during the recovery mission, that self-care is essential for self-preservation.

"I think you underestimate the importance and probably can't caption how critical they [CISM] are to a mission when putting people in a situation where it's seven days a week, 12-hour days, and you're looking at the immense devastation. You're consistently and constantly dealing with a recovery operation," said Lt. Col. Joe Kendall, interim RFO commander, originally the deputy district commander at USACE Honolulu District.

Lisa Bishop, CISM team lead, originally from USACE Portland District, and Diane Gilbert, CISM peer supporter from Buffalo District, have supported the recovery team since Dec. 18, 2023.

"We are here to assist the corps employees with the stress of being away from home, their families, their normal lives, and seeing things they wouldn't typically see," said Bishop. "There is a lot of devastation in this area, and to work in it every day is really hard, and that creates stress. We're here to help them handle that stress, to give them resources to help them handle it.”

Some of the resources that CISM provides are stress balls, stress reduction tools and techniques, caring, compassionate, and confidential ears, and therapy dogs. However, if a situation is more than they are trained to handle, they can assist employees to get appropriate medical treatment. CISM specialists work hand-in-hand with the Employee Assistance Program to ensure employees get whatever is needed to facilitate their healing.

As part of the CISM program, Bishop and Gilbert arranged for two therapy dogs, Kodi and Koko Bear, to visit the men and women at the Emergency Field Office in Lahaina, Dec. 31, 2023. The 8-year-old Labrador retrievers give kisses, allow hugs and belly rubs, but more importantly reduce stress for the team at the EFO.

"Working the therapy dogs into what we are doing provides a comfort to some that can only come with unconditional love and no judgment," said Gilbert. "They often are longing for their furry companions at home. Petting, hugging, and loving these dogs gives them joy and a sense of normal home life."

Diane and the CISM team providing therapy dogs to the EFO is a much-needed relief from the rigors of working long days with minimal time off in a fast-paced environment," said Brian Brandt, the resident engineer on the recovery mission from USACE Fort Worth District. "CISM plays a vital role in ensuring that employees take regular work breaks, which provides self-care and increases our ability to perform at our best."