In light of the tragic Hawaii wildfires that swept through the town of Lāhainā, Hawaii, on Aug. 8, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers joined the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies in responding to calls for assistance.
As soon as Aug. 11, a USACE Planning and Response Team – or Temporary Emergency Power Team – landed on the island and began work in conjunction with FEMA and Maui County, and state officials. Their mission – position generators across the hard-hit region and getting electricity flowing to the communities and to restart the wells that provide water throughout the area.
The 15-member team, made up entirely of USACE volunteers, set up shop on a windswept dirt and asphalt field near the Maui Raceway Park and immediately went to work. Maintaining a night and day shift, the team pushed to get the generators up and running as soon as possible, and by Aug. 21, had completed 17 of 18 generator installations.
The power team recently had another important task added to their to-do list. On Aug. 21, President Joe Biden visited Lāhainā to meet with affected citizens and leaders to assure them that support would continue.
“The PRT was responsible for providing and maintaining power during President Biden’s visit to the community,” said Dominic Basile, temporary emergency power national manager for. “It was critical to ensure the generator continued to operate and maintain electricity for everything from lighting at the civic center, to metal detectors and computers used by the Secret Service.”
And the team’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. Following Biden’s visit, the White House Communications Agency presented the team with a certificate of appreciation.
It reads in part, “The member of the White House Communications Agency wish to express our sincere appreciation for the outstanding manner in which you provided support to the President of the United States … Your efforts, coupled with your superb attitude and impeccable professionalism, enabled us to provide critical communications for the President, the White House Staff and the United States Secret Service.”
Madeline Martinez, planning and response team mission manager, said that this group of USACE professionals is the only team to have ever received this award. But as team leader, she was quick to defer praise.
“It’s all the team,” said Martinez. “This group of volunteers – they are all excellent at their jobs. I couldn’t do any of this without each of them.”