Tuesday, April 15, 2014

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!

When last we left our heroes.... we were off to the wilds of Alaska.  And we went!  It was a decent trip.  Getting there was the best part for me.  We took commercial air from DC to Sea-Tac and then went to Joint Base Lewis McChord.  There we got on an Air Force C-17 jet to fly to Anchorage and Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson.  This was an experience I have never had before and likely never will again. 

While in Alaska, we were a part of the Alaska Shield 2014 National Level Exercise.  While this exercise, like many of the others we have participated in, was good for the operators and planners, it was not so good for the logistics and IT group.  While they did setup a JFO (Joint Field Office) with a full network, they purposefully cut my group out of it.  How are we suppose to learn?  How are we suppose to be tested?  How are we able to ensure our teams that we can do the job as needed?  This was a perfect opportunity where they did setup and activate services.  All they needed to do was pull us in to the process and it would have been much better.

After returned from Alaska, we had a week at home.  I am now down in Dallas, Texas being an evaluator for an exercise for the Regional teams.  Just before Alaska, we evaluated half the teams.  Now we are doing the second half.

So why the title of this post?  Well, after a year with FEMA, I am going to be returning to my old life, back at IBM in Rochester.  I am excited to get back home and to be with all my friends in the area.  Its is amazing how quickly a year passes by.  My time with FEMA taught me many things about their processes, systems, and response operations.  I am sure this knowledge will help me in future response actions.  But for now, its back to the corporate world for me!

Thanks to all those that followed along and read this blog.  I may add more posts in the future, or this may be it.  If so, I hope you enjoyed this little view into my grand adventure over the past year.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Getting ready!

Well, it has been quiet.  That is good for the country but boring for us.  However, next week we leave for Alaska to participate in the National Level Exercise otherwise known as the FEMA Capstone.  This is a collection of exercises all going on at once - State, Federal, DOD, Nuclear Incident, and more.  Basically they are recreating the great 9.2 Earthquake of 1964 on its 50th anniversary.  I think it will be a busy couple of weeks there but I will try to put some posts up as we go!

Friday, February 7, 2014

All Hazard Communications Unit Leader

This past week I got to spend in Lincoln, Nebraska.  It was a balmy -9 air temp one morning, with wind chills in the -30's.  During that time, I was taking the L969 All Hazards Communications Unit Leader course.  There is a weird disconnect in FEMA.  My title is Communications Unit Leader, but this is the All Hazards Communications Unit Leader course.  FEMA basically maintains two different meanings for COML.  The FEMA (Federal) definition is IT and satellite comms.  The FEMA All Hazards (State level and lower) is all radio and RF comms.  In the FEMA (Federal) level, radios and RF all fall under Disaster Emergency Communications (DEC) and MERS, part of the Operations Section versus me, the COML, in the Logistics Section.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The State of the Union is...

Safe. For now. I will get back to that in a minute. First a little catch-up. We were deployed to assist in the Colorado Flooding last October. By that time, the flood was already 47 days in and the major structures were already in place. We were there for about seven weeks. I did not post many updates because it was most just steady state stuff: helping people connect to printers, running online meetings, and setting up shared server space. Nothing too exciting.

We were home for the holidays which was nice. I got to see my parents for a couple days. In January, we were the primary team up. This means we had two hours to get to the office and 12 hours to be anywhere in CONUS (continental US). Luckily, the month was quiet except for The State of the Union Address (SOTUA) last night. As we were the primary team and already here, we took point.

What makes the SOTUA so special is that the president, both houses, the Supreme Court, and most of the cabinet are all there. That means that most of the line of succession are there. This makes it a ripe target for attack and is designated as an NSSE - National Special Security Event

The smaller regional FEMA team was sent down into the heart of it to handle smaller issues. While our national team was kept at an undisclosed location outside the blast zone, er, I mean Capital area.  We had everything set to roll from a safe distance out just in case the worse happened. Luckily, the speech went off without incident and the month is almost over. 

This weekend is another large event - The Super Bowl. We, by proximity, are the up team for that. However, since it is not an NSSE, we just get to stay here on standby to drive up in case something does happen at the event. Looking further ahead, March will be our primary month again and should be very busy with exercises and training. Stay tuned for updates from those!!