This article will run in the RESERVIST Magazine, Issue 1, 2018.
Introduction By: Chief Petty Officer Elizabeth H. Bordelon, District 8 External Affairs
When Hurricane Harvey slammed into the coast of Texas in August, it left a trail of destruction, debris and pollution in its wake. September followed with the one-two punch of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which decimated the Caribbean and the Florida Keys.
From Bangor, Maine, to Barbers Point, Hawaii, and Sitka, Alaska, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, Reserve members from across the country mobilized in response to what would ultimately be a record-shattering Atlantic Hurricane Season.
Almost 1,300 reservists reported to fill a myriad of roles across the impacted areas, contributing expertise and decades of experience to the response efforts. The area of response most widely filled by Coast Guard members was Emergency Support Function 10 (ESF-10).
ESF-10 is the framework by which federal support is coordinated with state agencies in response to actual or potential oil spills or hazardous material releases. In conjunction with the affected states or regions, ESF-10 coordinates the provision of support and overall management of the various response sites with the mission of overseeing the assessment, mitigation and removal of hazardous substances and vessels from ports and waterways. During these assessments, a higher priority is placed on vessels found to be actively leaking pollution. As teams locate emergent pollution situations, immediate action is taken to contain the material and remove it from the environment.
ESF-10 operations can be messy work. As the long and arduous process of picking up the post-storm pieces drags on, tensions are usually running pretty high. Decisions must be made on prioritization and resource allocation — decisions which may or may not be congruent with the agendas of the various stakeholders in the response. Environmental sensitivity, public frustration with the pace of operations, and bureaucratic hurdles add additional levels of intricacies to an already complex mission. Factor in the glare of the media’s spotlight on response activities and responders are stretched to the limit of both their potential and patience.
Every reservist’s experience on a contingency response is different. Two members from the same rating sometimes end up filling completely different roles in the response depending on when they arrive and what their ICS training portfolio contains. And no two responses are the same, so all these factors have the making for some incredible sea stories and some unforgettable memories. These are just a few of the stories from the 2017 ESF-10 responses.
2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Records:
Meet the Reservists that Responded to the Call