Coast Guard Auxiliary answers the call

U.S. Coast Guard auxiliarist Rusty Pumphrey tracks storm activity from the Houston-based Hurricane Harvey incident command post, Sept. 17, 2017. Pumphrey served as a deputy liaison officer in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-led oil and hazardous material recovery effort and served alongside federal, state, local, and tribal partners. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer John Masson.

Written by Kevin Cady, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary answered the call for assistance soon after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in August along the Texas coastline. The 8th Coast Guard District command in New Orleans implemented an Incident Management Auxiliary Coordination Cell (IMACC) to direct the extraordinary Auxiliary response to the devastation caused by the hurricane.

“For the first time ever, the Coast Guard Auxiliary responded to an incident with an IMACC whose purpose was to assist the director of the Auxiliary and the 8th District commander by deploying auxiliarists with the right qualifications and training to support operations,” said 8th District Commodore Robert Tippett.

Coast Guard auxiliarists Michael Kappas, foreground, and Rusty Pumphrey, work in the Houston-based Hurricane Harvey incident command post, Sept. 17, 2017. Both contributed to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-led oil and hazardous material recovery effort and served alongside federal, state, local, and tribal partners. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer John Masson.

Rusty Pumphrey, of Floatilla 6-3, Seabrook, Texas, and Michael Kappas, of Floatilla 6-1, Chocolate Bayou, Texas, are two Auxiliary members that answered the call to duty, even while Hurricane Harvey ravaged Texas. Both navigated through Houston, which was still flooding under Harvey’s relentless deluge, in order to stand watch at the incident command post established at Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston.

Tippett said there were 117 auxiliarists from across the country who deployed for the hurricane response, supporting the Coast Guard from New Orleans to the Texas coastline. In addition, the 8th District deployed qualified and experienced Auxiliary members to Corpus Christi, Texas, to support the Hurricane Harvey Emergency Support Function #10 unified command. Auxiliarists filled critical Incident Command System positions in Geographic Information System, Situation, Resources and Admin/Finance within the unified command and assisted National Strike Force teams in the field.

Auxiliarists directly supported efforts to identify and remove hundreds of orphan containers, and they continue to support the vessel removal operations of displaced or submerged vessels from navigable waterways in addition to mitigating pollution impacts to the marine environment. Auxiliary members from New England, Philadelphia, Virginia, Colorado, New York, Iowa, Louisiana, and over 60 members from Texas supported the unified command.

“Even though the Auxiliary was not directly involved in the recovery of individuals, we were behind the scenes in a strong supporting role throughout the operations,” said Tippett. “The Auxiliary and the IMACC proved once again what a true force multiplier we are when supporting major disaster events.”

Coast Guard auxiliarists volunteered and stood watch during the disaster an average of 350 hours per member and logged more than 10,000 total hours in support of Hurricane Harvey operations within Texas.

U.S. Coast Guard auxiliarist Kevin Cady, of Sector Northern New England, presents the situation report to the Hurricane Harvey Emergency Support Function #10 unified command during a planning meeting, Sept. 22, 2017, in Corpus Christi, Texas. Cady served as the situation unit leader for three weeks in September 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Susan Blake.

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