By John Wesley Rowe, Jr.
On March 13, 2012, the White House announced a partnership between the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Corporation for National and Community Service to establish FEMA Corps, a unit of 1,600 service corps 18-24 year old members within AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, solely devoted to disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.
FEMA Corps members commit 10 months of their lives to FEMA to gain significant training and experience in disaster services because they have the desire to serve, give back to people in need, and prepare for careers in emergency management. When nineteen year old Brad Tidball of Jacksonville, FL. was asked why he joined FEMA Corps, he said, “I want to give back and serve others as they have served me when I was hit by three hurricanes in Florida.” Kimberly Teruya of Los Angeles, CA. also stated that “I thought that working with a government agency like FEMA would be a once-in a-lifetime chance to make a difference in people’s lives.”
The desire to serve called 12 FEMA corpsmen to their first deployment at DR-4072 in Richmond, Virginia. Federal Coordinating Officer Donald Keldsen explained how gratifying it is to hear young people express a dedication to serve others. Keldsen said that “All of us at FEMA are here to help, and FEMA Corps has the same motivation. This initiative goes beyond their initial service as it will bring youth and energy into all of Emergency Management.”
Upon arrival, the FEMA Corp members attended a training and orientation program where they listened to presentations on Finance, Human Resources, Information Technology, Logistics, Planning and Public Assistance. They were also assigned a seasoned veteran PA Project Specialist to act as a mentor.
Chief of Staff Dennis Mullins added to the first day’s training by providing the members with a dozen MREs (Meal Ready to Eat) for lunch. FEMA Corp member Kelsie Langston of Jacobus, PA. said jokingly of the training event, “It was quite an experience, but if I am ever on the frontline of a disaster I will probably starve. But I do understand how important this is during a disaster.”
The corpsmen are gaining valuable instruction during their deployment on how to use EMMIE’s Emergency Management Mission Integrated Environment complex software and are being exposed to a variety of Public Assistance programs. They are engaging in valuable hands on tasks such as completing applicant essays, entering essay material into spreadsheets, and performing quality assurance checks as applications are reviewed. The corpsmen are reviewing the essays to assure all necessary documentation is included in the applicant’s package. They are also verifying mathematically computations, checking time sheets against claims, and monitoring invoices, rental equipment agreements and vendor contracts.
PA Resource Specialist Deborah Parker observed, “The Corps members are on the ball and eager to contribute. They ask insightful questions and want to do the job right.” PA Project Specialist Angela Green added, “They are receptive, high energy, enthusiastic and want to work. They are constantly requesting and seeking help. They want to work, and they want to learn.”
The troop will remain at DR-4072 through the close out on Oct. 26. During the last week the group will learn the meaning of “FEMA flexible” when they fall under the expertise of Logistics Section Chief Joe D’Angelo. “The Corpsmen have volunteered to help with the close-out of the JFO. They will be taking inventory of the equipment, packaging the equipment for shipping, staging the equipment and loading the LC trucks,” said D’Angelo.