When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responds to a disaster, being able to have a singular communication and consolidation point for all involved is critical to mission success. This is what makes a recovery field office such a vital element, and a lynchpin to meeting USACE’s 'No Fail' worldwide mission.
While FEMA leads the overall federal disaster response, the USACE RFO functions as the USACE mission management cell for the recovery portion of an emergency management mission.
USACE established the Hawai‘i Wildfires Recovery Field Office in Kihei, Hawai‘i four months ago to oversee the management and execution of FEMA recovery missions following the wildfires that severely damaged the towns of Lahaina, Kula and Olinda.
In the RFO, USACE team members work closely with one another to ensure mission objectives are met. The primary coordination element within the RFO is managed by a group of active-duty soldiers, known as battle captains.
These dedicated individuals possess strong leadership qualities, critical thinking skills and the ability to make quick and informed decisions under pressure. Their primary tasks are to receive, track and distribute information to the team as well as provide RFO personnel and leadership with mission status updates.
Capt. Cody Loose, a first-time emergency management responder from the USACE Little Rock District, is filling one of three battle captain positions at the RFO. His main task is to facilitate the flow of information up and down the chain of command and coordinate logistical movements to develop a common operating picture for the entire area of operations.
Throughout his career, Loose has had extensive experience as a logistics officer. Military logistics is unique in that it enables the rapid movement of materials and personnel in support of Army operations.
One key example of how this critical facilitation role is implemented is when senior government officials travel to Maui to obtain mission updates and observe mission progress in the impacted areas. This involves a significant amount of coordination.
“There are a lot of moving pieces when organizing senior government officials’ visits,” Loose said. “And having prior logistics experience allows me to coordinate the various elements that go into these visits more effectively.”
Although this is Loose’s first disaster deployment, he has experience with fire-related disasters.
“When I was a child, I almost died in a house fire,” he said. “Everyone was able to make it out, but the house was completely gone.”
When driving through Lahaina and seeing family homes and businesses down to their foundations it had a profound impact on Loose.
“Going through something like this…it takes a toll,” he said. “I have empathy for the people of Lahaina, and I am glad to be able to contribute in some way, no matter how big or small, to help them move forward.”
No matter what phase a disaster is in during the emergency management cycle, it’s imperative for team members to collectively communicate and coordinate their response efforts. Battle captains play a key part role in creating the common operating picture to ensure that happens and the mission gets accomplished.