Information Operations provides support for hurricane relief

By Amber McSherry, DLA Information Operations

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The string of hurricanes — Harvey, Irma, and Maria — that hit the U.S. Gulf Coast, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in August and September required immediate action. DLA Information Operations continues to play a big role in making DLA’s crucial support possible, most notably printing maps and providing communications and IT support for emergency response.

Print-On-Demand Mapping Support

Information Operations began printing maps, in coordination with DLA Aviation, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey, for emergency response units’ evacuation and recovery efforts on August 25, after Hurricane Harvey caused devastating flooding in Texas. Map support continued through Hurricane Irma in early September and is ongoing in Hurricane Maria’s wake.

Map requests took first priority at Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia, as well as the Fort Bragg, North Carolina, printing facilities. Employees have been working overtime, into the evenings and on weekends, to get these critical maps printed.

"This is what Mapping Print On Demand is built for — real-world events, allowing us to flex our abilities to provide products at a time of need,” said Allen McClain from the Geospatial-Intelligence Information Office, Media Division, in Arnold, Missouri. 

The maps have been distributed to a variety of emergency response units including Florida Division of Emergency Management and Puerto Rico State Agency for Emergency and Disaster Management. 

DLA’s partnership with USGS and NGA “really paid off during this crisis,” said Kevin Bettis, division chief of Mapping Customer Operations for DLA Aviation in Richmond. “A year ago the entire suite of USGS products were ingested into the NGA Print on Demand virtual warehouse, which made these products available to all DOD and federal agencies via the DLA Map Catalog,” he explained. “The USGS products were the product of choice for most of the units and agencies providing support for first responders and warfighters.” 

The DLA Information Operations printing facilities are meeting the specific requirements for each request and have produced nearly 16,000 maps, with more orders expected. All maps were delivered less than 24 hours of the initial request. 

“Our employees take these situations to heart and are always ready to provide support when it counts most,” said Steve Sherman, director of Document Services. 

Tactical Communications for DLA Distribution and DLA Energy 

DLA is also providing communications support to help move supplies in response to the hurricanes. The logistics depend on communication between FEMA and DLA’s employees on the ground. Information Operations’ Contingency IT Team is making that possible by providing deployable, tactical communication to FEMA’s incident support bases set up for the hurricane crisis. 

The on-site CIT Team enables DLA Distribution to keep operations running. The ISBs depend on the network connectivity and communication devices the CIT provides. This support allows orders to come through from FEMA for commodities like water and blankets and then be filled by Distribution employees. ISBs have been established at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, Maxwell AFB, Alaska, and Fort Bragg. 

“Seeing the different organizations within DLA come together and work to support FEMA during this unfortunate natural disaster has been a beautiful and humbling, eye-opening experience,” said Philip LaGamba of the Cyber Emergency Response Team, who volunteered to serve on the Maxwell ISB. 

“As a DLA employee, volunteer, Navy veteran and American, seeing everybody work together for a greater cause is something we should all be able to experience in our lifetime,” he said. LaGamba also helps with the inbound and outbound supply trailers on the ISB. 

“It was surely worth the effort knowing the positive effects our mission had in providing supplies to the many Americans that were devastated by all the storms,” said Charles James, IT specialist for CIT West who drove the Mobile Emergency Response Center, which provided contingency communications at the Randolph ISB. 

The CIT Team is also working with DLA Energy to provide support for refueling. CIT employees drove the Mobile Command Vehicle to Fort Hood, Texas, then to Warner Robins, Georgia, and to Camp Blanding, Florida, before putting it on the barge to Puerto Rico. In fact, from August 26 to September 25, CIT employees maintained continuous 24-hour support for all aspects of IT, including satellite, networking and end-user support. 

“We bring your office to the fight and keep you in the fight by any and all means. We continue to be at our best when the world shows us its worst, a true beacon of communication when everything and everyone else has gone silent, we give them the ability to speak,” said Sean Mace, an IT specialist on the CIT Team. 

Members of the CIT Team are now preparing to join the MCV in Puerto Rico to continue aiding relief there. 

“CIT is at the ready to support DLA tactical communication needs as we transition to rebuilding all affected areas including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands,” said Hank Morrow, Contingency IT branch chief in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.