In times of crisis, ensuring the workforce's well-being and stability is paramount. The U.S. Coast Guard, with its commitment to protecting lives and property, understands the significance of promptly stabilizing personnel and their families following a disaster. However, the unique challenges faced by U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam, particularly in the aftermath of Typhoon Mawar, underscore the need for innovative solutions to support those affected by natural calamities. This event is where the groundbreaking implementation of the U.S. Coast Guard Family Assessment Support Tool (FAST) and the efforts of deployed and virtual teams have proven invaluable.
The Genesis of FAST
The genesis of FAST traces back to 2015 with the successful transition away from using excel spreadsheets to managing contingency support operations online. Over the next few years, these online solutions increased remote support across Districts and improved local initiatives such as District 8’s surge with a special team comprised of CISM peers, Personnel Support Teams and Yeoman from local commands to assist impacted members and families. Then, following the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, a devastating Category 5 hurricane that wreaked havoc in southeast Louisiana, leading to the evacuation of over 1,600 Coast Guard members and their families The sheer scale of the impact overwhelmed the District 8 Incident Command and the deployed Personnel Support Team's ability to track and respond to personnel needs. Recognizing this gap, Capt. Chad Brick, current commanding officer of Base Boston, spearheaded the creation of FAST—a SharePoint database that revolutionized the Coast Guard's ability to understand personnel needs, provide timely support.
The value of FAST was evident during the response to Typhoon Mawar. Unlike mainland hurricanes, where relief forces typically arrive within a day or two, the U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam team, including sub-units and tenant commands, actively responded to the storm's impacts for seven to ten days before relief arrived. The FAST team was ultimately able to contact all 442 members affected and handled more than 600 requests for support.
"During times of disaster, the FAST team's unwavering dedication to supporting our personnel and their families fundamentally strengthens our unit and enables us to accomplish our mission resolutely. Their relentless approach to providing assistance and care exemplifies the Coast Guard's core values rooted in service and compassion. The FAST team is an asset, and their efforts are a testament to the Coast Guard's commitment to our most valuable resource—our people," said Capt. Nick Simmons, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam.
Spotlight on Typhoon Mawar Success Story:
Among the many success stories facilitated by FAST, one recent incident stands out. Donavin Pangelinan, a Coast Guard member from Guam recently joined the service and is in his Damage Controlman ‘A’ School Training in Yorktown, Virginia. His family is in Guam until he reports to his first unit and that was not reflected in his personnel record. The lack of current unit information hindered efforts to reach him and his family. The FAST Team in Honolulu and Guam diligently pursued every avenue to locate them. Petty Officer 1st Class Gabriella Carson and Petty Officer 2nd Class Manuel Sardinha connected with Pangelinan's wife and children, who were without utilities. The team promptly arranged temporary lodging, ensuring their safety and well-being. Donavin expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the Honolulu FAST team, exemplifying the positive impact of FAST in times of crisis.
In the event of a disaster situation, it is important to be aware the Family Assessment Support Tool (FAST) team is prepared to assist almost immediately. The team will make proactive contact using all available communication channels, including electronic methods, using the phone numbers and email addresses provided in a member’s employee profile. Their primary objective is to confirm the member’s status and initiate the process of determining the available assistance. Once contact is made, members can verify the legitimacy of further communication by ensuring that FAST member’s email address ends with "uscg.mil" if needed. This step will help distinguish their messages from potential phishing scams. To date, there are no reports of phishing scams, however, some members were initially concerned about the legitimacy of contact due to the volume and multiple means used by the FAST. Remember, the FAST team provides genuine support during difficult times to ensure recovery, well-being, and access to necessary resources.
Key Features and Benefits of FAST:
FAST represents a paradigm shift in how the Coast Guard supports its personnel and families during crises. By employing a push-style logistics approach, FAST allows proactive support delivery based on intelligence rather than waiting for individual requests. This transformation efficiently utilizes related teams, tools, and resources, maximizing their impact. Moreover, FAST establishes service level standards, empowering resource managers to measure performance and deliver a higher standard of care to Coast Guard personnel and their families during times of crisis and contingency.
Expanding Reach and Continuous Improvement:
The FAST system's success during the response to Hurricane Ida prompted further refinement and expansion. Building on the lessons from previous incidents, the Coast Guard's Deputy Commandant for Mission Support (DCMS) now mandates using FAST for all future DCMS-supported contingencies. Since its inception in 2021, FAST supported four major contingencies, empowering the Coast Guard to provide prompt and efficient assistance.
The Typhoon Mawar FAST team members:
CAPT Chad Brick – FAST Program Manager
CWO Megan Lange – FAST Team Lead
CWO Jessica Cramer and CWO Alexis Agaman – Assistant Team Leads, Guam
YN1 Gabriella Carson – FAST Technician, Guam
YN2 Manuel Sardinha – FAST Technician, Guam
LTJG Katie Schiavo – Assistant Team Lead, Honolulu
YN2 Joshua Loo – FAST Technician, Honolulu
YN3 Ahshiyn Williams – FAST Technician, Honolulu
The U.S. Coast Guard's Family Assessment Support Tool (FAST) implementation has revolutionized disaster response and support efforts. By proactively identifying and addressing personnel needs, FAST ensures the stabilization and well-being of Coast Guard members and their families during crises. The success of FAST during the response to Typhoon Mawar in Guam further highlights its instrumental role in providing timely support. With its push-style logistics approach, efficient resource utilization, and service level standards, FAST exemplifies the Coast Guard's commitment to delivering higher care to its personnel and families during challenging times. As FAST continues to evolve and improve, it is a testament to the Coast Guard's unwavering dedication to safeguarding its workforce in the face of adversity.