Jim Mead is used to coordinating with federal agencies as a customer support liaison with the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support’s Operations and Plans Directorate in Philadelphia. But his experience doesn’t come solely from his DLA experience and training.
Also a colonel in the Air Force Reserve, Mead was called up in early March to support the nation’s COVID-19 response as an emergency preparedness liaison officer for the 1st Air Force’s National Security Emergency Preparedness Directorate. The 1st AF is an air component of U.S. Northern Command, the Defense Department’s lead for COVID-19 operations in the United States.
“My role is to establish and sustain working relationships with federal, state, local, territorial and tribal emergency authorities and agencies to facilitate the Defense Support for Civil Authorities response,” Mead said. “If I’m doing my job correctly, I’ll identify potential gaps in resources and capabilities that may require Department of Defense support.”
Mead initially deployed to Travis Air Force Base, California, to serve as a liaison with base and Department of Health and Human Services officials supporting the quarantine and repatriation of over 400 American citizens traveling from Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus was first documented.
He also helped with the 14-day quarantine of U.S. passengers taken to Travis AFB from a Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, Japan. Later, he arranged housing for about 1,000 passengers from the Grand Princess, docked off the coast of Oakland, California.
Mead is now deployed closer to home in Philadelphia, where he is the Air Force EPLO to FEMA Region III. Social distancing measures put in place to reduce COVID-19 infections have limited his ability to work on site with FEMA as he would normally.
“Under current conditions, my face-to-face interactions are reduced, with some of my time providing information, coordinating support, and connecting organizations and people being done remotely,” he said. “In this environment, the relationships we’ve cultivated during previous responses have paid off in continuing to provide value and support now.”
Joe Sanders, NSEP deputy director, said in a recent Air Force article that the relationships EPLOs help create with state and local partners improves response efforts.
“Day-in and day out, EPLOs are on the ground, building relationships, and training with their interagency partners and sister-service EPLOs before disaster strikes. These existing relationships are paying great dividends right now in the fight against COVID,” Sanders said.
Mead is also relying on relationships he’s built with DLA supply chain and operations experts to fulfill FEMA needs.
“The people I interact with at Troop Support are instrumental in helping me perform my EPLO duties,” he said. "I have routinely found myself talking to people in J3/5 [operations and plans] and the various supply chains for their expertise or to make a critical, time-sensitive contact between organizations in the field and DLA.”
Mead’s ability to cultivate relationships in both his positions is no surprise to DLA Customer Analyst Supervisor Brian Anderson.
“Jim’s uncompromising work ethic is second to none, and he is truly an asset not only to the CRM [customer relationship management] community here at Troop Support, but to DLA as well,” Anderson said. “Jim is always willing to go the extra mile for his team and the Troop Support personnel he supports.”
Mead said he shares those attributes with many of his emergency-response coworkers, who “place great care and effort” into making decisions that provide relief to those in need.
“In every deployment I meet new people and get reacquainted with those I’ve been deployed with before,” he said. “I’m continually amazed at the lengths people will go to when they’re helping others. The people I work with are simply some of the best in the world.”