News | Feb. 2, 2018

DCMA personnel assist with FEMA efforts

By Elizabeth Szoke DCMA Public Affairs

Ten Defense Contract Management Agency employees spent 45 days assisting the Federal Emergency Management Agency in hurricane relief efforts around the country.

In the fall of 2017, hurricanes struck different locations in the United States within weeks of each other. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria were all Category 4 hurricanes causing the need for volunteers to assist with providing aid to the devastated areas.

“I have personally been through a flood and two hurricanes, so I thought I could empathize with the survivors’ issues,” said Gerald Dunn, a contract price and cost analyst from DCMA Owego. “I also volunteered because I am a former emergency manager and firefighter and felt I could use that expertise in the field.”

The Department of Homeland Security called for volunteers across the federal government to join the Surge Capacity Force with FEMA. This was the first time the SCF was open to the entire federal workforce.

“We received a tremendous response from the DCMA workforce around the country,” said John Wrend, DCMA’s Contingency Response Force program manager. “Over 300 DCMA employees volunteered, but only 10 of our employees were ultimately selected.”

Between getting approval from supervisors, to submitting the packet and receiving orders, the volunteers did not have too much time to think of the challenges ahead.

“I boarded the plane with two duffle bags filled to the brim with everything I needed to be comfortable and dry during my mobilization in austere conditions,” said Shelia Celestin, one of the volunteers from DCMA Central Regional Command. “Being a 27 year Army veteran helped me prepare for the challenges ahead.”

Each experience was very similar to Celestin’s as everyone had to prepare to leave shortly after being notified.

“My packet went up on September 21st and I received notification on the 22nd that my name had been forwarded to FEMA,” said John Gorman, a DCMA Detroit quality assurance specialist. “I really didn’t think we would get to go as quickly as we did and not knowing where we would end up meant that packing would be difficult.”

Despite the unknown, Gorman knew that he would be fine with the challenging conditions and was flexible. The biggest challenge of the situation was that his wife was also selected as a volunteer, which meant they had to make arrangements for the requirements that would be left at home.

“It was a little nerve racking leading up to the deployment,” said Michele Gorman, a DCMA Detroit administrative contracting officer. “We prepared and packed for worst case scenario and that meant taking a lot of stuff. Additionally, the support we received from the Combat Support Center was phenomenal. They certainly did their homework in preparing us as much as possible for the unknown.”

The volunteers all initially deployed to Anniston, Alabama, at the FEMA Training Center. From there, four DCMA employees deployed to Texas, two deployed to Florida, three deployed to Puerto Rico and one deployed to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“We assisted approximately 100 people a day with the FEMA aid process,” said Bob Collins, an industrial specialist at the DCMA Business Intelligence Center in Philadelphia. “By the end of my deployment we had seen someone from almost every residence on the Island.”

SCF volunteers conducted several missions to aid in relief to include directly engaging with disaster survivors, helping the victims navigate to available programs and other tasks.

“My team was sent to southern Puerto Rico where it turned out that the Equal Rights team was over-staffed,” Collins said. “I was then able to actually go to remote villages to help the victims apply for disaster aid and to distribute donated equipment for disabled victims.”

Those who were chosen by FEMA during the hurricanes of 2017 all stated that this was a rewarding experience and that they would all go again if ever needed in the future.

“It was a very moving experience to sit and talk with people every day, some who had lost everything,” said Ted Fryzlewicz, with DCMA Human Capital Directorate. “Almost all were determined to rebuild and continue life on the beautiful island of St. John.”

The CSC staff recognize the efforts and flexibility of the deployees.

“These employees chosen to deploy with FEMA really stepped up to the plate for this mission,” Wrend said. “We’d like to thank every one of them for their dedication and selfless service so they could take care of those in a time of need.”

Volunteers who were selected to assist with FEMA were Lisa Amick, Shelia Celestin, Robert Collins, Michael Courson, Gerald Dunn, Theodore Fryzlewicz, Michele Gorman, John Gorman, Alviz Lacanilao and Gabriel Martinez-Mercado.

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