Each year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deploys hundreds of its trained personnel and resources across the United States and its territories to respond to emergencies and aid in disaster response and recovery.
Seasoned USACE responders, who have been deploying throughout the entirety of their careers, are helping to mold the new generation of USACE responders.
During a disaster recovery mission, these seasoned veterans are paired with first time responders to help them learn the ropes and get a feel for how the process works.
Jeff McCullick, an emergency management specialist and Clayton Corken, a project planner, both from the St. Paul District, are one such pairing on the Hawai‘i Wildfires Recovery mission.
Both are part of a 26-person Emergency Support Function #3 Temporary Housing Planning and Response team supporting the Hawai‘i Wildfires Recovery mission.
ESFs are a way to group functions that provide federal support to states and federal-to-federal support, for disasters and emergencies.
ESF #3-Public Works and Engineering coordinates and organizes the resources of the federal government to facilitate the delivery of multiple core capabilities such as providing technical assistance which includes engineering expertise and construction management.
McCullick serves as the ESF#3 temporary housing mission manager and Corken, as a temporary housing mission specialist.
Having deployed on numerous missions throughout his federal career, McCullick said he is always ready and willing to impart his knowledge and step into a mentorship role for first time responders.
“We like to build the bench,” said McCullick. “In other words, give new mission specialists the opportunity to deploy and get a feel for what a disaster recovery mission is about.”
As part of the process, first time responders are gradually eased into their mission roles.
“We start out small, then steadily increase their workload as they progress so they don’t become overwhelmed,” McCullick said.
Corken said McCullick was transparent, letting him know in the beginning he was going to have help, because this was a learning process, but he would eventually be fully responsible for his role.
“It’s ok if you don’t know all the answers right away, you’re not expected to,” Corken said. “But we are always expected to give 100% effort.”
Although Corken quickly reached that point in the mission where he is now doing the entirety of his job, like any first-time responder, he initially felt nervous about deploying.
“Taking the leap and deploying was daunting for me since I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “But knowing what I know now, there wouldn’t be a second thought in my mind about whether to deploy again. The experiences I have gained while being here and the people I have met, have influenced every aspect of my life in some way.”
Like with any disaster deployment mission, at times new responders can experience a myriad of challenges.
“One of the biggest challenges for me was learning how the interagency communication works and really where I fit into it all,” Corken said.
He credits having the full support of his family and coworkers as the driving force behind his ability to successfully handle the challenges that have come his way.
“I am learning every day and grateful that I can do my part to help the people of Maui recover,” he said.
Corken plans to continue learning all he can from McCullick and the rest of the ESF #3 team and hopes to continue to deploy on future missions.
“Clayton has a bright future ahead of him,” said McCullick. “I have no doubt that one day we will see him in that mission manager chair."