Hurricane Florence Deployment, 2018
By LT Patrick Sears
Federal Bureau of Prisons
What is your current assignment in USPHS?
I'm a clinical psychologist, and my duty station is with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
What was the mission of this deployment?
I deployed with RDF-3 to Clayton, North Carolina to assist with the Hurricane Florence response in September 2018. The mission was to shelter and provide health care services to patients with complex medical needs who were displaced by Hurricane Florence.
What was your role during this deployment?
I'm trained as a clinical psychologist and my role on the team is that of a mental health provider.
Was this your first deployment?
No. I contributed to the Hurricane Irma response in September 2017.
What was the most important thing you learned during this deployment? Any tips/tricks to share with fellow scientist officers?
Property: There were not enough cots for all of the officers at our Federal Medical Station (FMS). I slept on the floor. I learned the importance of packing a sleeping mat in addition to a sleeping bag. Getting restful sleep is very important on deployment. Luckily, another officer kindly let me borrow his portable air mattress after learning I had only packed a sleeping bag.
Mindset: Being flexible cannot be overstated. There are a lot of moving pieces involved during a deployment and plans can and do rapidly change.
What did you enjoy the most (e.g., favorite memory) about this deployment?
The relationships I built with the patients and with my colleagues were and continue to be very meaningful to me. The existential conversations, the light-hearted conversations, the laughs, the tears, all of it.
What would you consider your major accomplishment from this deployment?
I helped several individuals, both patients and colleagues, to think through some very difficult personal decisions, and I was able to be there for them when they needed me.
What were some of the main challenges that you experienced during this deployment?
Prior to the deployment, I had not worked a night shift in over a decade. It took me a few days to adjust. When sleeping during the daytime, I found it to be very helpful to have ear plugs and a blindfold.
How did you prepare for the deployment?
On my deployment on-call months I prepare by assuming we are getting deployed and I front-load as much of my work as possible. At home, I pay bills in advance, replenish my toiletries and snacks, and keep my go-bag ready.
Were there any classes, trainings that you had completed prior to your deployment that helped you in your current deployment (i.e. class/training recommendations for other scientist officers)?
I'm still new to deploying but I have found the best training for future deployments are past deployments! While it was helpful to read about Tier 1 teams and participate in deployment trainings, such as DMAT 101 and the NDMS Summit, I believe experience is the best teacher.
How was your post deployment/reintegration experience? Was it smooth to transition back to your daily life as experienced prior to deployment?
I had a smooth post deployment transition. My duty station and family are both supportive of deployments, which is enormously helpful.
Do you have any advice for fellow officers who are being deployed/interested in deploying?
Augmenting is a great way to try out a Tier 1 or Tier 2 team!
Is there anything else you’d like to share regarding your deployment?
On many occasions, I have found the most valuable thing you can give someone is your time.
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