I started working as part of the response effort on day 59 of the oil spill. To say I’m getting involved a little late in the game is an understatement. There was no time to get my feet wet with the mission; I had to jump right in. It’s been intense, and challenging, but I can promise that there are thousands and thousands of people committed to cleaning up this spill.
Within my first week of being here, I was assigned to interview the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, ADM Robert Papp. I was pretty nervous since he’s the most senior ranking person in the Coast Guard. That being said, any nerves I had about that interview went right out the window when I met him. Turns out, he has been Commandant less than a month – meaning he came on board to lead the Coast Guard when they’re involved in the largest oil spill response ever. Of course, his predecessor is ADM Thad Allen who is in charge of the entire Unified Command.
One of the questions I asked ADM Papp was if he could tell the public anything about the response effort, what would it be? His answer is right up there with the way I feel about everything: that we’re not capturing the story of the responders in this massive effort.
I couldn’t agree more. There are tens of thousands of responders working together in an effort to protect and cleanup every aspect surrounding this spill. And not only are members of military and government involved, but consider all the volunteers. Thousands of people have volunteered their boats for the Vessels of Opportunity program. Men and women of all ages from around the world are raising/donating money/goods/services and so much more do their part. I know everyone assigned as part of the Unified Command is working 12-plus hour days, most without days off. And not all of them volunteered like I did. The Coast Guard has called up a thousand or more Reservists (they are just as glad to help out though like me). The National Guard has also been authorized by the Defense Secretary to call up to 17,500 Guard members if needed.
My point is, this is what makes me proud to be an American: the fact that we can come together and respond like this. The interagency cooperation has been overwhelmingly positive. Most of these agencies and organizations aren’t used to working with one another, but you’d never know that seeing how we’ve all come together as one team. No one imagined something of this magnitude happening and no one wanted it too, but if there’s any silver lining, it’s knowing that so many incredible people are willing to step up and help out. So to every military member, every government and contract employee and especially the volunteers, THANK YOU.
To see my full Q and A with the Commandant, visit: http://ht.ly/22gqb