Sunday, April 28, 2013

Oath of Office

Wow, what a first week of training.  Since arriving last Sunday, this is basically the first time I have been able to come up for air.  Starting Sunday night, we had team building exercises.  On Monday, introductions, purpose, organization, and doctrine.  One of the cool things that happened on Monday that I did not write about in my last post was that we all had to take an Oath of Office, the same one the President has to take.  That was a humbling moment.

Tuesday and Wednesday was the basic "welcome to the company" stuff - HR, benefits, rules, regs, EEO, all that fun stuff.  Tuesday night, however, I did get my badge!  I now have my "Federal Emergency Response Official" badge :)  Thursday and Friday we had a Basics of FEMA course, covering the high level doctrine and overall response process.  It was a good overview, however, slightly dry.  In addition to our in classroom classes, we were given a list of about 40 independent study on line courses we need to complete by the time we leave here.  Everything from the ICS basics to a class on Constitution Day.  And if that was not enough, we have required books to read for class.  They started us all out with "The First 90 Days in Government" - talk about a page turner!  We need to have that one done by the end of this next week, at which point we get book number two in the FEMA Book Club.

Our team is really good, lots of experienced people on it.  There are a couple like me that are new to FEMA, so I am not completely alone in that account.  Our team has also been meeting at nights after class to prepare our selves and get to know each other better, both professionally and personally.  We spent all day yesterday (Saturday) working in our teams.  As our leader put it, we are 100% dedicated to this academy for the 12 weeks we are here.  So they are going to take every chance we can to meet and build our skills.

This works well too.  There is not much to do here besides work on FEMA stuff.  Transportation is limited at best, and non-existent at most times.  So far the meals have been good, except for now over the weekend.  Last nights dinner was really bad, but no transportation services to go out even though we were told they would.  Good thing I had some snacks in the room.

This next week we have classes specific to our position.  So I should be in IT classes learning their systems and policies.  At least that will be a little more interesting than basics classes.

So why all this work and push to get done?  Well, in just about 2 weeks, we will be taking our Incident Management III certification test.  This test will certify both us as individuals as well as us as a team.  This will make us an official Level 3 response team.  A couple weeks later, we take our Level 2 certification.  At that point, the boss says we can be sent out.  While most of us have been thinking August 1 as our start of deployment date, the Administrator told all of us that after June 1, we could be called out the field!

And then finally, before we leave the academy, our last item will be our Level 1 certification.  This is the major league item - the reason we are all here.  These tests are  not easy.  They said that in the normal field operations, a team would work together for at least 10 YEARS before taking the Level 1 test.  We need to be at that level in 12 weeks.  So yes, the pressure is on!  They tested 16 teams 2 years ago - 3 national type 1 teams and 13 type 2 teams.  Of the 16 teams, which at that point had been together for at least two years, only 4 of the 16 teams passed.  Not a very high success rate.  And they are looking at us to pass first time at each of the three levels.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Day one... Check!

Well, after them waiting until the last moment to send me my formal job off (3:46 EST Friday, needed to be accepted by 4 PM), I did travel on Sunday to the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Alabama.  It was an early morning flight, which at first seemed like a bad thing.  However, the weather only got worse as the day went on and I was able to fly just ahead of the weather.  So maybe because of the early flight, I made it here on time!

Today was our first day of training.  As expected, the morning was a bunch of overview information.  The best part was that the head of FEMA, Administrator Craig Fugate, gave us a really good pep talk.  In the afternoon we started the team building process and learning about everyone else on our 30 person team.  There are the two national 30 person teams here; my team on the East Coast, the Blue team, and the West Coast team, the Red Team.  In addition, there is a 10 person regional team as well.  Part of the training will be in our individual teams, others will be with my counterpart on the Red team in my same Communications Unit Leader position.  The Regional team does not have our position.  As we were exploring our new training facility, I found a couple of interesting labs next to each other; the Explosives Lab and the Meth Lab... this training could be more interesting than I thought ;)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Cleared for take-off!

Well, at the last minute (okay, with 4 hours to go), I was granted my clearance to report to training!  So Sunday I will be taking off for Alabama for the IMAT Academy!  Yippee!!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Less than a week... maybe?!?

Well, the IMAT academy starts this Sunday down in Anniston, Alabama.  At this point I am stuck awaiting my Standard Agency Security check to come back clear.  Somehow in 5 weeks time they have had my background info they have not been able to clear me.  So as here I am today, checking my email every 5 minutes to see if anything has changed.  Nope, still no email.  So the waiting game continues.

We did get the schedule for the training.  It is starting, as I mentioned, this Sunday on April 21 and goes until July 12th.  They have stuff scheduled for most days in there, including the weekends.  As it sits right now, we will get two days off to come home over Memorial Weekend.  In addition, there is a "field trip" planned to both Washington DC and New York to discuss the Hurricane Sandy operations.  The leader of my team, Michael Byrne, has been the main Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) for the Sandy efforts.  So I am excited to get to work under someone that has a vast, real world experience in this area.

Here's hoping to get wheels up on Sunday!!