Sunday, June 30, 2013

The work don't stop!

Wow, what a busy two weeks.  And it is not going to slow down much these final three weeks.  But there is that light at the end of the tunnel!!  So, to recap, two weeks ago we started with another leadership course.  This one was called the True Growth course.  They ended up repeating a lot of the same stuff we heard from the other leadership courses.  But after that was done, a subset of us had two days of technical training on the GATR - Ground to Air Transmit and Receiver.  The GATR is an inflatable satellite dish.  Unlike most rigid dishes that are 500 lbs plus units often requiring a truck, this one packs down into five Pelican cases with a total weight of about 300 lbs.

Luckily, the American Red Cross trained me very well in satellite communications so I was one of the more knowledgeable ones there doing the training.  Over the course of two days, we set the dishes up about 10 times each.  Our final exam was a race between our three teams (Blue, Red, and Region 9) to see who could go from the packed cases to completing a phone call to the instructor over the satellite system.  This involved setting up the ground location, inflating the dish, doing precision aiming (remember, satellites are in geosynchronous orbit 22,236 miles away from the earth - a slight movement on the ground can land you miles off in space!), acquire the signal, work with the satellite company to activate the service, setup the phone system, and complete the call.  And in 42 minutes, the Blue team lead by me won!  The other teams took 56 minutes and 82 minutes to finish theirs.

Last weekend was spent setting up our new computers, iPhones, and iPads.  I taught the same course six times.  It went well, but it took up my entire weekend.  Hence, no post last weekend.

This past week we have been in our IM II class for our Level II Certification.  I was afraid it would be more program stuff like in IM III but this was a 5 day long simulation.  We worked a major disaster from all angles - earthquakes, bombings, fires, landmines, missing kids, kidnapping, and bioterrorists attacks.  Oh, and if that was not enough, let's add a hurricane on top of it all!  They were 5 long, exhausting days but it was fun to get to do lots of work on a big event.

Today we get more satellite training and prep for tomorrow which is the final IM II Certification test.  We got a small brief this morning.  Our Level II qualification test is Hurricane Ivan from 2004.  Why make something up when they can use the real thing!  Our team has a ringer though.  Our team leader not only worked the real Ivan, but also has done it twice more in other qualification exercises.  So this is Ivan #4 for him.  Should help us out!

And with that, we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  A short week this week with the 4th of July, then a week of IM I classes, and then our final week is the IM I Certification test.  July 19 at 3 we are done!!

One final note - we have been officially renamed to be the IMAT East instead of IMAT Blue - the current team's name.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A heavy weight

This past week started slow.  It was a repeat of the ICS 400 class I took at Camp Ripley.  Wednesday we learned all about the Public Assistance (PA) program and how they process their projects.  The afternoon concluded with a showing of the movie K19.  We are going to be discussing the various management styles and decisions they made in a future leadership class.  I have seen this movie once before, but I am not sure where.  It must have been somewhere in college.

The week ended with a bang.  Er, thankfully, without one.  Friday was the CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosives) workshop.  They went all out on this bringing in the head Nuclear guy from FEMA, the head guy from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), and the Department of Energy's team leader that went to Japan for the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant incident.  PhD's around the room!

This day was eye opening with regards to different biological and nuclear weapons that we could run into.  The entire afternoon was spent exercising what would happen if a 10kT nuclear device was set off in Washington DC.  Our team leader is thinking that for our Level I validation test at the very end it will be this scenario.  It would fit as a level I event.  The end result of the training:  if a nuclear device goes off, get inside, go deep, and stay there at least 1 hour.  The natural urge to flee will actually hurt you more than if you shelter right away and wait.  The half life for fallout is surprisingly short.  That little time inside a building will save you a ton of exposure!!!

The NNSA/LLNL/IBM collaboration has produced six HPC systems that have been ranked among the world’s most powerful computers including: The Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI) Blue Pacific; ASCI White; the Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) Purple; Blue Gene/L; Blue Gene/P, Dawn; and Blue Gene/Q, Sequoia. ASCI White, Blue Gene/L and now Sequoia all attained a no. 1 ranking on the TOP500 list. The Blue Gene line of supercomputers received a Presidential Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Obama in 2009.  At least three of those systems passed through IBM Rochester while I was there.

The week ahead includes a personal leadership course and two days training on one of our portable satellite systems.  That should be a good time (assuming the weather is decent!)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Hot and Humid

Welcome back!  This past week was a week-long class that was specific to my position.  The best parts of these classes is always getting to talk to people that have done the work in the field.  While the academic part is okay, these classes just further point to the fact that we will not know how we are doing until we actually do it.

Besides the classroom classes, I worked hard and finished all of the 44 required independent study courses for the academy.  These ranged from equal rights to hiring veterans to more in depth information on the program areas (IA, PA, and HM).  And, if you cannot guess from the title, the heat has arrived.  Thank goodness for well working AC systems!

This next week will include repeating a 2 day course I took last December, a 2 day formal evaluation for level III, and the CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosives) Workshop.  It will be interesting to see what they cover in that one day!