SWF logistics chief supports growing disaster response mission in Puerto Rico

by Lisa Hunter

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – In “The Art of War,” Sun Tzu said, “The line between disorder and order lies in logistics.” That same principle applies for those deploying to a disaster response and logistics management chief, Tami Mahaffey, keeps all of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Puerto Rico Recovery Field Office (RFO) personnel on the orderly side of that line.

Mahaffey, the supervisory logistics management specialist from Fort Worth District, was among the first dozen USACE personnel to deploy, Sept. 24, to support recovery operations in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. Maria had made landfall Sept. 20, causing catastrophic damage across the island.

Tami Mahaffey, the logistics management chief (bottom left), with her “awesome” team. Top left to right: Kylene Patton, Ramon Collazo-Negron, Melissa Johnson, and Garrison Pollard; front row with Mahaffey, Jeremy Lovern.

“Tami and her logistics team have been the stabilizing factor for us here,” said Puerto Rico Recovery Field Office commander, Col. James DeLapp. “We didn’t know what kind of environment we would find when we landed, but Tami and her team found us lodging, made sure everyone was properly inprocessed and that we had food, water and supplies for our missions.”

From the humble beginning of a dozen USACE personnel, the RFO has grown to more than 600 in less than a month and the logistics mission has grown with it.

“At home, in the Fort Worth District, I’m responsible for logistics support to the district headquarters, as well as all the project and area offices,” Mahaffey explained. “This includes all facility management, supply and property accountability, transportation and fleet management.

“Here, in San Juan, I get to work with a team of five awesome individuals who are responsible for the reception, staging, onward movement and integration of all the USACE personnel coming in to support the disaster response,” said the Washington native. “We provide support for all of the USACE responders by securing lodging for them, coordinating transportation, and ordering supplies and property. We want to make sure the responders have everything they need to perform their disaster response and recovery missions.”

Mahaffey has deployed “too many times to count” in her 33 years with USACE. Her first deployment was in response to the Alaska Oil Spill in 1989. She has also deployed in response to several natural disasters including hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. Mahaffey also supported the response to the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“I truly enjoy seeing the difference our efforts make by helping people in impacted areas,” she said. “And, having a good Logistics team is the essential when responding to a disaster, especially when it comes to lodging for all of our personnel. Jeremy Lovern was our ‘lodging life saver.’ He secured over 400 rooms since he landed in Puerto Rico. I could not have asked for a better person to deploy with, especially with his can-do attitude. He doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

The RFO team continues to help the people of Puerto Rico. The RFO team continues to pick up and dispose of debris left by the hurricane. They have installed more than 170 generators and counting that are supplying power to hospitals and other critical facilities. Team members are overseeing the installation of temporary roofs on homes that were damaged by Maria. And other teams of specialists are repairing water and wastewater stations across the island.

Mahaffey enjoys traveling all over the world in her personal time. She also enjoys watching movies, reading and “grabbing all the adventures life has to offer.” But, her true passion is spending time with her husband, Jeff, a USACE emergency manager who Mahaffey describes as the love of her life, as well as her children and grandchildren.

SWF Ranger receives Secretary of the Army Award for Valor

Natural Resources Specialist Robert L. Henderson received a Secretary of the Army Award for Valor for stopping an armed threat and potential active shooter from injuring or killing others at the Piney Woods Regional Project Office near Lake O’ the Pines, Texas on Dec. 29, 2016.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Commander, Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite presented the award to Henderson at a ceremony at the Fort Worth District Office on Oct. 25, 2017.

 

“Some heroes are created in Hollywood, this hero comes from the Corps of Engineers,” said Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite. “I can’t thank you enough on behalf of the Secretary of the Army and the Corps of Engineers.”

Semonite also said, this is what we expect Corps of Engineers’ employees to do. Do the harder right, be able to make sure that when the challenges are there  you step up and tackle them and you do it in a manner that is fitting for not only a great Army Civilian but a great American hero.

“The best thing I could think to do at the time was talk him of the ledge,” said Henderson. “I’m just thankful that nobody was hurt and that everybody was able to go home to their families that day.”

Fort Worth District, Natural Resources Specialist, Robert L. Henderson showed great courage and bravery in the line of duty.

Henderson’s ability to deal with a disgruntled member of the public that entered the Piney Woods Region Project Office to make a complaint about the conditions of the Lake O’ the Pines facilities was extraordinary.

Henderson’s ability to think quickly and strategically enabled him to effectively deal with the situation before it escalated out of control.

The hostile individual was extremely belligerent and made multiple threats against the staff and government property. Continuing his abrasive behavior and antics for approximately 20 minutes, the individual proceeded to leave the office and retrieve a revolver from his vehicle. Keeping an observant eye on the individual, Henderson noticed the individual returning with the weapon, and quickly alerted the others in the building of the armed threat and potential shooter situation. The front door was unable to be locked before the individual was able to re-enter the building. Two volunteers in the reception area froze in place which is the exact area the disgruntle individual reentered the building.

Henderson put the safety volunteers above his own and remained in the room to ensure they were safe. Through the use of his training, He was able to deescalate the situation and convince the disgruntled individual to place his weapon on the counter. He kept the individual’s attention until law enforcement was able to enter the room from behind and make an arrest without injury. Had he not acted in such a valorous manner, himself, the two volunteers, and others in the office could have been injured or killed. His bravery reflects great credit upon himself, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Nation.