Hurricane Maria Response, 2017
By LCDR Cara Halldin
Supervisory Team Lead, Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program
Respiratory Health Division, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
What was the mission of this deployment?
Support a Federal Medical Station in Ponce, Puerto Rico
What was your role during this deployment?
Deputy Safety Officer. Scientific skills used: industrial hygiene, food safety, epidemiology, infection control. Personal skills: patience, organization, diplomacy.
Was this your first deployment?
What was the most important thing you learned during this deployment?
As with all deployments, a refresher on patience, flexibility, and cultural competency were the most important skills reinforced on this deployment.
What did you enjoy the most about this deployment?
Observing the quick problem solving skills of our officers and their ability to work outside of their area of expertise to achieve a mission.
What would you consider to be your major accomplishment stemming from this deployment?
The lack of nosocomial infections and minimal workplace injuries, despite the less than ideal working conditions.
What were some of the challenges that you experienced during this deployment?
Lack of reliable power for the patient population, non-potable water, unreliable food source, and long hours with little opportunity to relax with fellow officers.
How did you prepare for the deployment – personally or work-wise?
Reviewed my go-bag checklist and modified my packing list for tropical area with vector/disease transmission. Notified all of my supervisors and any Corps-related activities that I had commitments to over the deployment time. Made sure that all bills were paid at least a month in advance.
How was your post deployment/reintegration experience? Was it smooth to transition back to your daily life as experienced prior to deployment?
Not at all. I did not have the opportunity to take a day off given time constraints at work with preexisting deadlines and TDYs planned. Since we arrived home near a holiday I was, however, able to take a few days off in-conjunction with the holiday.
Do you have any advice or “pearls of wisdom” for fellow officers who are being deployed/interested in deploying?
Packing: Less is more. Constantly remind yourself to be flexible and what the purpose of the mission is. It's easy to get lost or distracted by the complete logistical chaos of a deployment.
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