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The Navy was the first to be sent back into a hotspot.
Setting a 20-person medical team up for success in Lafayette, Louisiana meant surging experts in defense support to civil authorities.
"The medical team is familiar in a hospital environment, but they may not be fully familiar with interagency integration and the structure of the Army," said Navy Capt. Sam Germann, the Navy Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer for Louisiana. "That's where my role as a liaison and NEPLO comes in. I can help them get connected to the right people to solve any issue they have."
NEPLOs are an agile community in the Navy Reserve who work to connect Department of Defense resources to federal emergencies.
Earlier this year, NEPLOs assisted in coordinating the federal vaccination response.
"We were tracking all of the teams from the different military services that deployed to mass vaccination sites earlier this year," said Navy Capt. David Diamond, who supports the National Response Coordination Center at FEMA as a NEPLO. After administering almost 5 million shots, the the Department of Defense's support to the COVID-19 vaccination mission ended earlier this summer.
The COVID-19 resurgence medical response in August was a part of several mission assignment requests from FEMA to the DoD for medical teams to support hospitals by providing COVID-19 care. When the mission assignments were approved, U.S. Army North surged support forward.
"This is the second time Department of Defense medical assets have deployed to support Louisiana during the pandemic," said Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, the previous commanding general of U.S. Army North.
With resources available from every service, U.S. Army North tapped the Navy to take on the mission at Ochsner Lafayette General Medical Center.
"This demonstrates the Navy's continuing capability to surge very quickly for the fight against COVID-19," said Diamond.
Not only did the medical team in Louisiana have a NEPLO there to support them, NEPLOs from the Naval District Washington unit reported for duty to manage the requests.
Navy Capt. Joe Carnell works alongside Diamond in the NDW NEPLO unit.
"In the NRCC, the 'r' is the important piece for NEPLOs. It's about response," began Carnell. "At FEMA headquarters, we coordinate the mission assignment and track movement of the resources sent to help. We help line it up, and send it out the door. We operate at the Command and Control level, while the deployed NEPLOs manage the day-to-day coordination on the scene."
That dual capability of NEPLO support as a part of the process and responding to the crisis on site show the versatility of the NEPLO community.
"NEPLOs are known for being problem solvers because the nature of our business is helping Americans on their worst days," said NEPLO director Navy Capt. John Saccomando. "We have to be experts at understanding the DoD resources available, the process needed to access the resources, how to get them to the site and get them in the fight."
Since the Navy medical team's surge in August, U.S. Army North dispatched more medical teams from other services to meet the needs of the nation.
"The teams are on the front lines making a huge difference," said Diamond, working from FEMA headquarters in the NRCC. "As bad as COVID-19 is, it is good to know the role our Navy team had in making a difference and saving lives of people who otherwise wouldn't have been able to get medical treatment."
Capt. Kaye Sweetser, APR+M
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Navy Emergency Preparedness Officer (NEPLO) Program
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