Technology is a tool that contributes to the success of a mission and isn’t often talked about. During disaster recovery, technology is foundational for a mission’s success. Ensuring U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ employees have access to the tools they need to accomplish tasks while deployed, is a team of IT professionals working quietly behind the scenes.
The Enterprise Emergency Response Team is comprised of four corporate information office G6 – signal operations contractors that support various USACE districts throughout the nation, via secure enterprise-wide information management and technology support services.
The Hawaii Wildfires EERT includes Sh’Gay Johnson, level 3 desktop support technician from the USACE South Atlantic Division; Spencer McMillan, system administrator and Ryan Hetherington, senior PC tech both from the Portland District; and George Rogers, team lead from the New Orleans District.
The EERT is responsible for handling the needs of more than 80 USACE personnel deployed for the Hawai‘i wildfires recovery effort. They work out of the Recovery Field Office in Kiehi, Hawai‘i and the USACE Emergency Field Office in Lahaina, Hawai‘i.
The team is responsible for a variety of duties.
“We handle mobile phones, landlines, printers, printer mapping, setting up cables and programs, making sure the team has access to WiFi and troubleshooting any tech issues as needed,” said Johnson. “We basically keep the motion going.”
Although each team member has specific duties assigned to them, they have interchangeable skill sets allowing them to switch roles as needed.
One of the projects Johnson is responsible for, and one she has found impactful, is helping the quality assurance cadre maintain access to the tools and programs they need to track and input their work and communicate with each other. One of her specialties is preparing and installing ethernet cables.
“During Hurricane Ian, we made ethernet cables that were over 1,000 feet long, by hand, said Johnson. “These were important because this allowed us to get the team wired into the system so they could start their work.”
McMillan’s main responsibilities include managing shared email groups, calendars and email distribution lists for the debris team and making sure all electronic devices have access to the USACE network and are in working order. He also steps in as needed to handle PC tech duties such as troubleshooting printer problems.
“The cadre shouldn’t have to worry about troubleshooting tech issues,” said McMillan. “They have an important job to do, and I like that we can take some of that stress off of them so they can focus all their attention on what they are here to do.”
Hetherington’s main duties include printer setup, printer mapping, telephone system setup and management and ensuring the team has public Wi-Fi access.
“This is my first deployment with USACE,” said Heatherington. “I have learned a lot about how the agency conducts disaster response operations and feel like I’m helping make a difference.”
Lastly, the glue that holds the team together is George Rogers, the EERT lead. His first deployment was in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy and he has deployed every year since.
“What’s different about the Hawai‘i wildfire response from other disasters I have deployed to over the last decade, is the technology we have been using,” Rogers said.
For the first time ever, USACE utilized the new Starlink Satellite Solutions technology during a disaster response. This technology is an important system that allows the teams in the field to power a variety of handheld electronic devices so they can conduct their assessments.
“The tech allows our team to do their assessments and communicate more effectively with one another,” said Rogers. “It’s helping us to keep the mission moving forward so we can continue to help the people of Lahaina, Kula and Olinda move forward.”