Shipmate of the Week – Capt. Roger Laferriere

With the inception of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, men and women from 22 different Federal departments and agencies joined together in a unified, integrated department to protect our nation’s borders, enforce our laws, prevent terrorism and prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.

As part of the Department’s commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, it launched Faces of Homeland Security: Heroes on the Front Lines to tell the stories of some inspiring DHS employees.

This week, two Coast Guard members were recognized for their contributions to the department – Petty Officer 2nd Class Bonnie Wysocki and Capt. Roger Laferriere. The Compass brought you the story of Petty Officer Bonnie Wysocki in November when she returned from a 10-month deployment working with the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan as an inspector with the Coast Guard’s Redeployment Assistance and Inspection Detachment. Today, we bring you the story of Capt. Roger Laferriere who was one of the more than 40,000 people from numerous federal, state and local agencies, volunteer groups and non-governmental organizations, academia and industry that banded together to help the Gulf Coast respond to and recover from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Captain Laferriere discusses oil trajectory chart

Capt. Roger Laferriere (second from right) shares an oil trajectory chart with responders June 2, 2010. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ann Marie Gorden.

As America watched the largest oil spill in our nation’s history unfold on live television during the spring and summer of 2010, Coast Guard men and women were putting their training to work taking a leading role in the federal response. As incident commander for the State of Louisiana, Capt. Roger Laferriere applied his many years of experience in pollution response, search and rescue and incident management to help responders adapt to the unprecedented event.

Beyond his demanding role of coordinating public, private and government sectors to conduct on-water oil recovery and cleanup operations from the source to the shorelines of Louisiana, Laferriere recognized the immense and unique challenges posed by the size of the spill and used innovative techniques and flexible procedures to adjust to the massive response effort.

Captain Laferriere talks with responders at the Incident Command Post

Mike Utsler, Capt. Roger Laferriere and Lt. Cmdr. Theodore Lam from the Incident Command Post in Houma meet with Captain Peter Garay, the president of Alaska Marine Pilots, to discuss the Deepwater Horizon response, July 13, 2010. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Brazzell.

Modifying the National Incident Management System, he assigned Coast Guard officers to branches and forward operating bases, layered Incident Command System structures to efficiently execute response operations, and integrated efforts with local emergency operations centers to effectively coordinate Coast Guard initiatives with state and local responders. This model would become standard across all states impacted by the oil spill.

Laferriere worked tirelessly to raise public understanding of response operations. He created an aggressive briefing and education program for visiting government officials and initiated a program of local town hall meetings to ensure residents and officials received timely response information. Laferriere participated in daily briefings with senior government officials, state governments and Congressional leaders, frequently serving as a technical expert explaining the nature of response operations.

By applying search and rescue methods tailored for tracking objects in the maritime environment, Laferriere reduced the cycle time between detection of oil and the application of resources, enhancing response efforts, maximizing effectiveness and improving relationships with local officials and the public.

Captain Laferriere tours a staging area

Capt. Roger Laferriere and Doug Suttles, BP chief operating officer, tour a portion of staging area in Port Fourchon, La., June 1, 2010. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Barry Bena.

As testimony to his exceptional leadership and effectiveness as incident commander, Laferriere received a phone call from the President of the United States and from the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security as well as personal congratulations from the Commandant of the Coast Guard for his extraordinary efforts.

Laferriere currently serves as the commander of Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles/Long Beach where he leads the Coast Guard’s security, safety and environmental protection activities from Morro Bay South to Newport Beach, California.

Do you know a Shipmate that has done something great for the service, the missions or the public? Please submit your nominations using the “Submit Ideas” link on the right.

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