Over 130 employees volunteered for ten assignment opportunities to support hurricane relief efforts with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and will soon deploy to Texas, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico.
The Department of Homeland Security sent its initial request Sept 9 for volunteers to be part of its Surge Capacity Force, a group of public servants who augment FEMA’s workforce in areas struck by natural disasters. This is the first time DLA has lent employees to the Surge Capacity Force.
“We’re already supporting FEMA in other ways, but this is the first time we’ve ever been asked specifically for people willing to support their operations,” said Deanna Rightmyer of DLA Human Resources.
A call for volunteers was sent mid-September to the agency’s senior leaders by DLA Human Resources Director Brad Bunn and forwarded to DLA Headquarters and its major subordinate commands. The response was so overwhelming that Rightmyer arrived at work one morning to 67 voicemails.
“This shows the willingness of DLA team members to step up in any situation. We have a proud history of supporting warfighters, but this is a great example of how our mission has evolved to serving our fellow citizens during natural disasters as well,” Bunn said.
Overwhelmed by dozens of calls and emails from employees stepping up to support, DLA Human Resources officials asked the MSCs to identify the most suitable volunteers. Rightmyer ensured they met basic requirements, such as having a government credit card, and verified they were still available. She submitted the selectees’ names in early October.
The volunteers will not know where they’re going or what their duties will be until they’ve completed FEMA training at Anniston, Alabama. Eight have already departed for the training and two are on standby, which focuses on areas such as communications and the issuing of FEMA equipment.
The deployments are scheduled to last 45 days, and jobs range from call-center operations to one-on-one meetings with citizens seeking FEMA support.
“Any time we ask our employees to do something for others, we have so many who raise their hands. It says a lot about the generous spirit of our people, especially when you think about the fact that these folks willingly wanted to do this even without knowing where they might be sent or what they’d be doing,” Rightmyer said, adding she’s still hearing from employees who want to help.
Melissa Carter-Dempsey, a supply systems analyst for DLA Logistics Operations, was one of 10 volunteers identified but at press time was waiting to hear if she would be needed for an expected deployment of a new wave of volunteers. She remembers wanting to help victims struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina but not having the freedom to contribute.
“I remember watching the victims of Hurricane Katrina struggle. I felt compelled to help but also felt helpless because I had two young children at the time and no way to do more than donate to the Red Cross. I remember thinking that if I were ever able to help, I would,” she said.
Carter-Dempsey has never deployed but did two missionary trips to Haiti.
“I met some incredible people, and we were able to build a foundation for what would later be a high school, a water cistern for the local neighborhood and five homes,” she said. “That experience gave me the confidence to think that I may be able to help with this hurricane relief program.”
The FEMA deployment is just one way DLA employees are contributing to disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. Rapid deployment teams from DLA Headquarters- and other support teams from DLA Distribution, DLA Disposition Services and Information Operations have also deployed to the affected areas.