FEMA Employees Celebrate the Agency’s 45th Anniversary by Sharing Why They Serve

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FEMA was established by President Carter in 1979 to unify the federal emergency preparedness and response resources to build the nation’s culture of readiness. As disasters and emergencies have evolved, our agency has evolved. FEMA’s ability to adapt to meet the new challenges of today and tomorrow is a direct reflection of the people that make up the agency.

During the last 45 years, FEMA has attracted unique individuals from every corner of the nation and all walks of life. There is a story for every person who chose this path of public service, and we are sharing some of their thoughts while we celebrate FEMA’s 45th anniversary. 

John M. Acosta Ayala 

Region 2 Emergency Management Specialist, 6 Years at FEMA

“We serve and fulfill one of the most-important missions after a disaster. We respond by saving lives and we also assist in the recovery of the affected cities. When I meditate on the work we do, I think about what each of our actions mean when we process cases, and it leads me to the conclusion that there is nothing I can do alone as an isolated entity, or to take an undeserved credit. It is not me who gives final resolution to each case, it is not me who advances the processes exclusively. There are also each one of those agents who before or after me interact with the file. As well as those who work in the field in missions with functions very different from ours, but each one of them, from Washington to you and me, fit perfectly into the gear that moves an entire system of which we are links with a simple but great purpose: To help.”

Roxana Allen 

FEMA Administrator, Deputy Administrator, Roxana Allen, and other staff smiling and holding a flag

Program Analyst, 3 Years at FEMA

“I love everything about FEMA because there are commonalities between my service as a U.S. military spouse and my service at FEMA like the rapid response deployments, a high readiness level, and the capacity to help others, saving more lives. In essence, this is all about our FEMA values -- Compassion, Fairness, Integrity, and Respect -- because I always find a great purpose, such as saving more lives during COVID-19 crisis. I am a survivor of a catastrophic earthquake as a child and serving people to the best of my ability brings value to others, creating a legacy for future generations and making the world a better place. … In less than three years, I had 10 deployments. FEMA embeds my whole life and professional experience in one civil-military ecosystem and culture.” 

Christina Gonzales

Headshot of Christina Gonzalez smiling

Region 6 Training and Administrative Specialist, 6 Years at FEMA

“What I love about working for FEMA is the diversity and being a part of helping people recover from a disaster. I have never worked with such a caring, compassionate and diverse group of people. We are all on the same mission to assist survivors before, during and after a disaster. It warms my heart to witness the skillset each of us brings, to be able to assist all the communities during the most-difficult times in their lives.”   

Donna Knupp 

Donna Knupp smiling outside

Region 3 Training Specialist in the Cadre Management and Training Branch, 6 Years at FEMA

“I came to FEMA in September 2017 as a Local Hire during Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria after a long career in state and local government. I had no idea what to expect when I applied other than the fact that I loved the idea of helping people affected by disasters. Once I started taking calls and speaking with disaster survivors, I knew I had found my home, and this is where I would remain for the duration of my working life!  I so enjoyed working with these wonderful people who had been affected by disasters, and being able to help them, even if only in some small way to begin their recovery process and at the end of each day, no matter how busy or how stressful things might have been, I felt fulfilled. … I am honored to be part of this great agency and love to tell everyone that some of the most delightful and rewarding conversations I have ever had, were those I had with our disaster survivors!”

Rob Long 

Headshot of Rob Long smiling

Office of the National Advisory Council Director, 7 Years at FEMA

“Perhaps if I had known about FEMA earlier in life, I would have joined FEMA two decades earlier than I did. Why didn’t I know about FEMA? Why don’t young people know about emergency management as a career path? How can we better bring people like me, who have survived disasters, into emergency management? I appreciate that my role is to support the National Advisory Council (NAC) asking questions like these, probing for strategic-level solutions for workforce and other issues. I also get to do something wonderful at the tactical level. Thanks to the trust that FEMA has placed in me as director of my tiny office, since 2020 I have hosted 12 university interns. It is my pleasure to introduce them to the important work of the NAC and to entice them to join FEMA. I now experience great satisfaction from my two favorite professional roles: helping improve disaster outcomes, and personally recruiting the next generation of emergency managers.”

Laura Reynolds 

Headshot of Laura Reynolds smiling

Training Specialist in the Logistics Systems Division, 6 Years at FEMA 

“After retiring early from my private sector job, I was at a crossroads in my life. Not sure which life path to take, I heard the call in 2017 from FEMA looking for help to support multiple hurricanes impacting the U.S. and Puerto Rico. My first mission with FEMA was supporting California wildfires.  There was one impactful moment which sealed my commitment to the FEMA mission. It was Christmas Eve, and I was working for a housing mission when I saw a father with two children living in their car waiting to get cleared for a FEMA travel trailer at a commercial site.  The joy and tears on that father’s face and the excitement shown by the children when they transferred their few items from their car to the unit is a memory I’ll always treasure. I’m thankful to FEMA for the career opportunities put in my path and I know every day my job, regardless of the position, allows me to help people like the young family in California.”

Priscilla Stroud

Priscilla Stroud and Federal Coordinating Officer William Roy smiling

Region 6 APP Services Priscilla Stroud, 7 years at FEMA

“I must say that was the best decision I could have made. I love people and being a part of this FEMA family has allowed me to make lots of lifelong friends. However, the most important part of working with FEMA is helping our survivors and seeing the smiles we bring to their faces. It is such a rewarding feeling knowing you had a hand in their recovery. I spoke so highly about FEMA and the joy I receive from assisting survivors that my sister, son and several friends decided to join our FEMA family.”

Marieli Alvarez-Ulloa

Marieli Alvarez-Ulloa smiling with palm trees in the background

Recovery Coordination Group Supervisor, 6 years at FEMA

“I came to serve at FEMA after Hurricane Maria decimated our Island. I wanted to continue serving with the same commitment and the same passion that I did for Puerto Rico. What inspired me was the effort that FEMA put into our Island. My heart is filled of gratitude for all of my coworkers. After the storm hit, they came to work in austere conditions in an inclement and challenging environment. Now is my opportunity to thank them and their families by serving the states impacted by disasters.” 

Michael “Mikey” Mazo Sandoval

Michael Mazo Sandova smiling

HQ Individual Assistance Reservist DRC Task Force Leader, 6 years at FEMA

“I began as a local hire during hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico back in 2017. I later transitioned into the reservist program. This meant the most to me because I was on the front lines helping survivors at disaster recovery centers answering questions about our program assistance in the Individuals and Household Program. It filled my heart with pride and love helping and seeing the positive impact FEMA had on their lives.”


Azure Bookman

Azure Bookman outside with a clipboard and pen

Region 4 Supervisory Emergency Management Specialist, 6 years at FEMA

"I am thankful to serve in a growing and diversifying agency that continues to work hard in supporting our affected communities. We are FEMAily."

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