Thursday, April 9, 2015

Military Logistics in Disaster Relief

Yesterday, we had the honor and pleasure of hosting SMSgt Thomas Orifice, who is with the 104h Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard, in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class.

At first there was some added excitement because his presentation was secure and would not load but we managed to get it working!

I had read an interview with Mr. Orifice , which I liked very much, including the wonderful quotes: I know that all of us would tell you that there is a shared sense of purpose and mission in the military that you don’t regularly see in civilian life. It is one of the major reasons I chose to make this my career. I work with people that are focused on getting the job done, and don’t let obstacles stop them. It’s amazing to see what the human collective can accomplish when they put their minds to it.

Mr. Orifice has had an over thirty year career with the National Guard and has served in France Italy, Germany, and Kyrgyztan, where he told us he saw "frozen fog," and he considers that assignment one of his most fulfilling ones.  He also took part in the liberation of Bosnia and Iraq Operation Freedom.

He kept us on the edge of our seats as yhe spoke about the capabilities of the military in disaster relief, the restrictions, the Stafford Act, and the fascinating case of Superstorm Sandy and his experiences in the response in NYC.

He eloquently emphasized emergency operations centers and showed informative photos and videos, including several on the emergency preparedness and response to Superstorm Sandy, the second costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. To be able to respond so quickly to Superstorm Sandy through effective military  command and control, successful coordination with NYC city planners and the assistance of Mayor Bloomberg, and such impressive military logistics, for the timely delivery of food, water, and fuel, and the provision of shelter for the responders was awe-inspiring!  NOAA had forecast the superstorm one week ahead of time which allowed for emergency declarations and meticulous preparation on the part of the National Guard. They were able to set up staging areas within 24 hours to deliver the necessary supplies and coordinated with NYC city planning authorities. They were not allowed to carry weapons and, hence, needed police assistance to assist in deliveries.

The vehicles that the National Guard has from planes to high water vehicles to forklifts were very helpful in this major disaster relief  mobilization. In addition, the National Guard brought their own shelters and set them up so as not to take up valuable hotel spaces in NYC. He emphasized specifically the devastation of the Rockaways.

Also, Mayor Bloomberg allowed for taxis to obtain fuel since NYC residents are so dependent on access to transportation and the public transit system was shut down for days because of the flooding and electric power outages as well as fuel shortages.

SMSgt Orifice  did a great job reinforcing what the students have learned so far in this course and educated us with new information and material. He clearly showed the importance of logistics in humanitarian operations!
And, he said that my students next academic year can get a tour of his National Guard facility - great to hear! A big thank you to SMSgt Thomas Orifice!