While it will take years to fully recover from Hurricane Ida, the last Defense Logistics Agency Task Force Americas member completed his mission and returned home Sept. 20.
Task Force Americas is a team of DLA Energy employees who respond to and support a variety of emergency situations under the Defense Support of Civil Authorities mission. Their latest mission was providing fuel support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency following Hurricane Ida’s landfall on the Gulf Coast.
“DLA Energy Americas worked closely with the FEMA and DLA Energy business units in advance of the storm,” said DLA Energy Americas Commander Army Col. Raphael Heflin. “We immediately deployed three members of Task Force Americas to FEMA’s Incident Staging Bases at England Airpark, Louisiana, and Meridian, Mississippi, where they coordinated contingency fuel contractor trucks to support FEMA requirements to address fuel supply constraints caused by Hurricane Ida.”
Americas West Operations Officer Dan Schmidt and Quality Assurance Representative Melissa Rodriguez served as the TFA leads for the hurricane relief efforts. Americas East personnel included Jeff Cotton, Calvin Williams, and Air Force Tech Sgt. Dominic Mersino.
Favorable conditions in the Caribbean Sea fed the storms power as Hurricane Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, on Aug. 29. The storm brought catastrophic winds and heavy rainfall that caused substantial damage to the electric grid in Louisiana and created unprecedent flooding. Preliminary reports suggest it’s the fifth-strongest storm ever to strike the continental U.S.
Tracking the “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm, DLA Energy activated the FEMA fuels contingency contract on Aug. 28. TFA personnel met with the FEMA vendor Foster Fuels and the on-site FEMA representative to begin field reception operations and coordinate fuel deliveries on Aug. 30.
Williams has been a resolution specialist for DLA Energy Americas East since 2016; he is also an Army reservist. On a regular basis, he specializes in solving fuel problems by tracking fuel movements and working with vendors performing reconciliations.
“Driving from Houston, I was the first person from TFA to hit the ground at ISB England Airpark and was immediately joined by Americas West Dan Schmidt, the TFA lead,” Williams said. “I kicked into resolution specialist mode and immediately started verifying bill of lading forms for fuel deliveries.”
Williams was on site for 18 days and operated between the three ISB sites.
“I was doing a whole lot of driving,” Williams said. “Because it was a natural disaster, England Airpark was where we started. After verifying bills of lading with Foster Fuel, I would drive to Baton Rouge to ISB Sherwood. From there it was on to ISB Broussard, Louisiana at the Macro terminal. TFA did a whole lot of moving around because of changing conditions.”
The DLA Mobile Command Vehicle, manned by the DLA Information Operations team of Joe Clark and Forrest O’Connor, arrived in Baton Rouge. to support efforts with Foster Fuels, FEMA, and the state of Louisiana.
Initially, DLA Energy received two mission assignments totaling $6.05 million, supporting four ISB locations, with 37,000 gallons of diesel, 19,000 gallons of gasoline, and 4,000 gallons of propane.
“I was activated with orders on Aug. 28 and sent to Meridian Naval Air Station, Mississippi to meet fuel trucks for receipt and ISB staging,” Cotton said. “Trucks were delayed due to weather, delivery orders started coming in, and the mission to push fuel to hard hit areas began. Over 50 delivery orders were serviced including to provide daily deliveries to vital Army Corps of Engineers water-pumping stations running on generators.”
Mersino acted as a liaison between DLA, Foster Fuels and FEMA monitoring delivery orders and inventory levels.
“I assisted in the reconciliation process, comparing all fuel transactions with the delivery orders and Bills of Ladings,” Mersino said. “The TFA deployment was a great experience. The only challenge was finding lodging. My hotel was more than 80 miles away for the first week.”
Williams said he’d volunteer for future deployment opportunities.
“There is a lot I can still learn,” he said. “Going out with an experienced person like Melissa Rodriguez was a very educational experience. I learned a lot from her.”
The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 and has had a record-setting start, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Ida’s landfall coincided with the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina‘s landfall in southeast Louisiana and Mississippi on August 29, 2005.
DLA Energy is the executive agent for Class III products, petroleum, oil, and lubricants, and has been providing support to Federal Emergency Management Agency through its multi-purpose fuel contingency contract since September 2005. Every year, DLA and FEMA update a formal interagency agreement for logistics support during presidentially declared national emergencies and disasters.
DLA TFA, FEMA, and the contractor Foster Fuels ultimately delivered over 566,000 gallons of fuel to First Responders during Hurricane Ida: 261,650 gallons of diesel and 304,408 gallons of unleaded gasoline.
“With a fleet of 96 available truck assets holding 576,00 gallons of fuel, we were able to direct, deliver, and download fuel to every First Responder request,” said TFA Melissa Rodriguez. “That’s an amazing accomplishment for DLA, FEMA, and the contingency contractor in just a period of 15 days. I am so proud to work with such dedicated professionals. No one shut down operations on our watch.”