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U.S. Coast Guard Oral History Program

Katrina Archival & Historical Record Team (KART)

Hurricane Katrina, 2005

Interviewee: LCDR Daryl Schaffer, USCG

Personnel, Force Optimization & Training Branch Chief

Interviewer: PACS Peter J. Capelotti, USCGR
Date of Interview:  27 October 2005
Place: ICP / ISC Alexandria, Louisiana


LCDR Schaffer evacuated to LORAN Station Grangeville on Sunday afternoon, August 28. He was prepared to return to ISC New Orleans the following day to check on its status; however, Sector New Orleans directed him instead to save lives. By Tuesday morning, they were launching their boats at the I-10/610 split. As far as Schaffer knows, ISC New Orleans performed the first Coast Guard surface rescue. They borrowed a johnboat from the LORAN station in addition to an aids-to-navigation flat-bottom boat. Schaffer oversaw the rescue operations. There was a mix of Coast Guard personnel involved in the rescue operations. FEMA arrived with their assets shortly thereafter as well as volunteers. They set up a unified command for coordination with the other responders. There were about 40 boats already launched and approximately 300 to 400 rescue personnel on site. By the end of the day they had rescued 340 people. 

On Wednesday Schaffer moved over to the Emergency Operations Center at Zeyphr Field to serve as unified commander with the FEMA director, a Jefferson Parish official, and an official from Louisiana’s Fish and Wildlife Department. They reported to the Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP) in Baton Rouge.  As part of their incident action plan for the surface rescues, they set up divisions and assigned different units to search those assigned areas. Evacuees were transported from the I-10/610 split to a central location about a half-mile away, which came to be known as the causeway of I-10, but there were no buses waiting there to pick them up. Even if there had been buses, there was no place to take them. Where do you take the three to four thousand people at the Superdome? “That was not part of any plan.” Schaffer does not believe that anyone even imagined this scenario. They sent requests to the OEP but did not receive answers. “It was like a black hole.” FEMA is designed to come in and help the local jurisdictions. However, because of the nature of this disaster, they could not physically get to the New Orleans operations center because it was surrounded by water. The local officials were barricaded inside the building. The mayor was stuck; he may not have known that FEMA was there because there were no communications. “That was the crux of the problem.” No one abandoned the poor people. The responders just could not physically reach them until several days after the storm. Helicopters could only rescue so many people at a time. Schaffer received a lot of his information from CNN, Fox, and MSNBC. After viewing the news reports, he placed post-its on areas of very detailed tourist map to determine what areas were flooded. This information assisted in directing the rescues. It also helped to be familiar with the area. The ICS structure has its good and bad aspects. FEMA is designed to help the locals in their normal operations. This was difficult here because the different parishes could not speak to one another. There was no single local unit that FEMA could assist. FEMA functions well with the ICS structure. The Coast Guard is still working on it.

Q: Could you please state your first name, your last name, and spell your last name?

LCDR Schaffer: Daryl Schaffer; S-C-H-A-F-F-E-R

Q: And your rank in the Coast Guard?

LCDR Schaffer: Lieutenant Commander.

Q: And how long have you been in the Coast Guard?

LCDR Schaffer: Coming up on 15 years.

Q: Okay. And briefly, can you go over your career path that led to you being stationed here in New Orleans?

LCDR Schaffer: I enlisted in 1990, was selected as a physical fitness swim instructor as my first billet out of boot camp. I finished my college degree and went to OCS in 1993. I went to GANTSEC San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the operations center. I was Deck Watch Officer on the Coast Guard cutter Active, Port Angeles, Washington. I transferred to Coast Guard Headquarters, Office of Auxiliary, for two-and-a-half years, then selected as an RPA; Reserve Program Administrator and went to Office of Reserve Affairs for two-and-half years. I was picked up for graduate school in Human Resource Management at Marymount University in Arlington and then transferred, as a payback tour, here to ISC New Orleans as the Personnel, Force Optimization and Training Branch Chief.

Q: Okay, and prior to Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast what kind of preparations were you making at the ISC?

LCDR Schaffer: As one of my collateral duties I’m the Natural Disaster Officer so I’m in charge of making sure the checklist is up to date; creating any other items that are needed for that, verifying with each division chief what is needed; making sure they have all their items on the checklist completed, setting the hurricane conditions 5-4-3-2-1 if needed, helping run exercises, participating in other exercises with the district, sector, the state of Louisiana and various other people.

Q: Okay, and where did you end up evacuating to?

LCDR Schaffer: I ended up staying in New Orleans with the hurricane duty section and then evacuating on Sunday afternoon. We sent out the Hurricane Condition 2 and ISC closure messages Sunday afternoon and then we left and went to LORAN Station at Grangeville, which is about 30 miles northeast of Baton Rouge. So we were about 80 miles away from New Orleans.

Q: And what were you doing there at the LORAN station?

LCDR Schaffer: We hunkered down with them. We basically sat around, watched the storm come through and pretty much prepared to go back into the city the next day; Tuesday morning, to try to reconstitute the computers, to try to get the ISC back up and running, to access the base and try and get our facilities back. As part of the hurricane plan that’s what we’re supposed to do. Three days after the hurricane we’re back to normal operations.

Q: Were you able to do that?

LCDR Schaffer: When we called up Sector with our plan . . . after I briefed the district and briefed our command they recommended we just talk to Sector as well. And we talked to Sector Monday night and they basically told us, “Bag the computers, we don’t care about them. Go pick people off rooftops.” So Tuesday morning . . . the hurricane hit Monday morning at 0600; it went through, and by Tuesday morning at 0930 we were down at the I-10/610 split in New Orleans and we launched a boat and made our first rescue. And as far as I know, and until I’m told otherwise, ISC New Orleans had the first surface rescue from a Coast Guard unit.

Q: And so you were with this unit that went down to the I-10 split?

LCDR Schaffer: Yes.

Q: Okay. And you had some john boats. Where did you get these from?

LCDR Schaffer: We had one boat that we borrowed as a morale boat from LORAN Station. They allowed us to use that one. The ANT from New Orleans had stationed a couple of their boats at LORAN Station Grangeville and we took their flat-bottom boat and added a motor onto that. So we took about ten people and two boats down to the I-10/610 split and then started launching from there. At 9:30, like I said, we launched then and started picking people up, bringing them back in and running the operation so I was pretty much overseeing everything there. And there was a chief warrant officer and a senior chief were the two people actually running the two boats and all the petty officers in the boat along with a couple of other petty officers to offer additional support. We had no BMs there so we had an MK warrant officer, an MK senior chief running the boat, a DC, an ET, an IT, an HS, a fireman and a seaman. There was a mix-match of personnel just doing what we had to do; making rescues. 

About an hour after we were doing rescues there FEMA starting showing up with the rest of their assets meaning the Virginia Task Force, Texas Task Force, California Task Force; the professional teams from there, as well as additional civilian personnel; just regular volunteers, that started coming in. We set up a unified command and started running full operations there between the two of us, coordinating as best we could between. We had about 40 boats that were launched and about three to four hundred rescue personnel on site and probably 300 units as far as cars, vehicles and everything else in that area. 

And the first day we concluded at sunset; around 7:30, and we had counted up 340 personnel that we had rescued from all the Coast Guard and FEMA units there. At the end of the day the FEMA representative asked me to go down to the Emergency Operations Center the next day; the FEMA Operations Center, so the next day my guys and gals went down and did more of the actual operations; the boat ops, and I went to the FEMA Operations Center and became the Unified Commander with the FEMA Director, with the Jefferson County Parish and with Louisiana Fish and Wildlife, so we actually had a full . . . .

Q: Was this the same as the OEP?

LCDR Schaffer: This is Zephyr Field in New Orleans.

Q: Okay.

LCDR Schaffer: This is in New Orleans. We reported up to the OEP office; the Office of Emergency Preparedness, in Baton Rouge. We reported to them all our happenings.

Q: How were the communications between Zephyr Field and the OEP?

LCDR Schaffer: Very bad. We had very minimal communication with them; usually about one phone call a day if it was even that and that was usually by a satellite phone or somebody just literally drove up there to tell them what was going on. The biggest problem that I saw overall was there was no communication and everyone’s emergency plan depended on a communication of some sort, be it a cell phone, landline, walkie-talkies, something. Nothing worked, nothing at all worked. No cell towers were up. All landlines were cut off. Courier pigeons would have been better.

Q: And do you know who the Incident Commander was at OEP? I mean who were you getting tasking from or who were you communicating with even though it was sparse?

LCDR Schaffer: We would communicate with the FEMA representative to the OEP, as I found out later as did the Coast Guard from Sector New Orleans here in Alexandria. They had a contact at the OEP as did the mayor’s office from New Orleans; they had a contact, and that’s where the information was flowing to, just to those three people as far as I understood it.

Q: From the sparse communications were you getting any tasking from them of substance?

LCDR Schaffer: We really weren’t getting tasking from them. We were pretty much telling them what we were doing and if we needed additional assets. For example, we would rescue people from the I-10/610 and bring them to a central location about a half mile away from there which became known as the Causeway I-10. It was a landing area for a lot of helicopters to drop off medical patients. There ended up being about four to five thousand people at that location but there were no buses to take them anywhere else. There was no place to take them even if there were buses. This is one of the things that we started seeing afterwards that was a little bit larger of a problem which was that, “Yes, we have all these people that we rescued but where do we take them? The 28/30,000 people in the Superdome, they’re there. We can get the buses there . . .” we meaning people can get the buses there but where do you take them beyond that? That wasn’t really part of any plan and I don’t think anyone even imagined that to be part of a plan.

Q: And at Zephyr Field how was the command structure working there; what was going on there?

LCDR Schaffer: The command structure there, we had about a thousand personnel all totaled. There were about a hundred Coast Guard personnel and about eight to nine hundred civilian rescue task force and governmental agency task forces; Louisiana Fish and Wildlife. I think EPA may have been down there and a couple of other groups who had come in. We had control with the unified command. I still had control of the Coast Guard people that were there, not necessarily control but authority over to say where they might be able to help out. Likewise, each of the operational units had their representative into the ops planning and into the planning groups of the ICS structure and made decisions based on that. They came up to the unified command and that was myself, the FEMA rep and the Jefferson County, Jefferson Parish representative. We were the ones making decisions for everybody. We approved the Incident Action Plan. We did all the coordination between us. There was no one person making the absolute decision, “You will go here.” It truly was a very good unified command.

Q: So pretty much everybody was able to work pretty smoothly within this unified command structure? You know when you were working with all these different agencies it worked fairly smoothly?

LCDR Schaffer: It did work fairly smoothly. There were obviously some bumps. You know you wanted to be able to communicate with everybody but you only have a walkie-talkie, which if that walkie-talkie battery dies and you don’t have a re-charger for it you don’t have any communication with that unit. 

The logistics part of the ICP there had a very, very difficult time because they would request things and the only place they could request it was up to the Governor’s office, the OEP. It was a black hole from our aspect of it. We sent these requests in and nothing ever came of it. It was very difficult to deal with because, “Yes, we want to rescue these people. We need to bring them somewhere. Where are the buses we asked for?” It’s a very simple example of the problems that would occur there?

Q: Well how did you get around that? At some point there was a head to all of this so what did you do to get around this?

LCDR Schaffer: Keep asking every couple hours, “Where’s our buses? Where are the buses we asked for”, continually asking.

Q: Did it all have to funnel through her or did eventually the federal government put in requests there?

LCDR Schaffer: That’s where a bit of the politics come in; Louisiana politics and national level. It’s difficult to say who could give what or do what. The governor may have had access to various buses but may not have had the authority to actually direct them down. Part of the original plan from the City of New Orleans, I believe, was to take the school buses and start shuttling people out using them. And the problem with that is, “Where are the bus drivers?” The bus drivers evacuated before the hurricane. So even in the plan, in the basic idea of the plan, it looks good on paper but if you don’t have your bus drivers you can’t drive the buses, which was very poignant when they started showing the pictures of, “Here’s all the buses sitting in six/eight feet of water.” By no fault of their own it just happened.

Q: Now you mentioned communications was a problem. Are there any other things you can think of that were problem aspects of working in this environment?

LCDR Schaffer: One of the items that I found out when I got down there to the FEMA ops center, FEMA is designed to come in and help the local jurisdictions. We could not - we meaning FEMA - could not physically get to the Orleans Operations Center. It was surrounded by water. They were barricaded inside the building. They were stuck there. Therein lies probably the biggest problem of the whole situation of Mayor Nagin doing the best job he can, completely stuck inside a building. I don’t know if he even knew that we were outside there ready and willing to help but we didn’t have communications with him. We could talk up the chain or even talk sideways through the chain and that really was the crux of most of the problems that the media just killed us with, “Nobody’s doing this, nobody’s doing this.” “Yes, we are doing this. You just don’t know that we’re doing this” or “We didn’t know we were supposed to be doing this because nobody told us to.” There were a lot of problems coming out from the lower 9th Ward area and from New Orleans east. “Nobody’s coming to rescue these people. These are the poorest sections of town and everybody’s ignoring us. The race card was put in. You know this is where all the poor black people live; the people on welfare.” “No, we’re not abandoning them. We’re not ignoring them. We just have no way to get there.” The roads were completely flooded. We could not physically get a rescue unit to that area until several days passed. The lower 9th Ward, we actually could get to there and I found out that one of the other subunits was actually doing surface rescues in that area Tuesday afternoon. New Orleans East; we couldn’t get there except from a helicopter. The helicopters did an excellent job of pulling people from roofs but they could only pull four, five, six, eight people at a time. When you’re talking five, six, eight hundred, a thousand, three thousand people, that’s a lot of helicopter trips.

Q: Were you able to direct people from Zephyr Field, like any of the helicopters, to pick up persons in distress if you got reports or was this pretty much because of communications problems they just went and picked up people? 

LCDR Schaffer: From what I understand we had no communication with the helicopters from Zephyr Field, absolutely none. We did not direct them with the exception of one or two which happened to be under the control of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s office. So we did have a couple of helicopters and these were very small four-person helicopters, not exactly your normal rescue helicopter. All the Coast Guard helicopters, as far as I understood, were being directed from either here in Alexandria from the ICP; Incident Commander of the sector or possibly even from Baton Rouge, from the OEP; from the Coast Guard representative there. Where the communication was for the helicopters I don’t know. They would have probably been through the high sights.

Q: How about the surface forces? You had DART teams staged at Zephyr Field and MSST units. How did that go?

LCDR Schaffer: Those became part of the Zephyr Field contingent of FEMA; surface contingent. And as part of the incident action plan for each day we would set up, “Here are the different zones or different locations, divisions, that we’re actually going to be looking and doing searching of. California Task Force One, you’ve got Division Alpha. Coast Guard DART Number One, you’ve got Division Bravo. You’ve got this.” So they were assigned out from that location. But none of the helicopters, none of the air assets were under our control at all.

Q: So basically you just sent people out in sectors to do their search; the surface force personnel?

LCDR Schaffer: Yes, just surface, and the surface work was extensive. It wasn’t just pulling people off the roofs. It was, as we’ve heard in several articles and interviews with other people that were out there, you’re patrolling along in your boat and you turn the motor off and you stop and listen, and you listen for cries for help. You listen for knocks on a building, on a roof. You look for hands sticking out of a hole in the roof or out of a window from an attic. That’s what you do.

Q: Now were there discussions about risks or safety procedures when these operational units went out because we know the water was toxic? What were the operational people talking about to their crew members?

LCDR Schaffer: With the FEMA Ops and the EOC, they did have a full safety officer and a safety team and each of the task forces have a safety officer that’s part of their construct, so they would be taking full protection. It was very interesting to see the Coast Guard going out there in our three-person little john boats and you’d see some of these task forces going out with their teams in their fully equipped Type-3 hi-rise vessels with carabineers, rescue rope, extra baggies, multiple sets of rubber gloves and full length long-sleeve rescue gear, even neoprene suits; dry suits, and it’s 95 degrees out with 90 percent humidity. A few of them ended up getting treated for heat exhaustion and the Coast Guard people were out there in our life jackets and our ODUs. And if we could, we’d try to grab some rubber gloves. I’m not saying that we were doing more or less safety than the others. We took our precautions. We made sure everybody got their shots right away, either before they went in or soon afterwards. You tried not to get in the water if you didn’t have to. You tried not to touch the water if you didn’t have to. But if you’re pulling somebody in out of the water you’re going to get wet. During the first day maybe there weren’t quite as many contaminants out there but you could still smell the raw sewage. The scent was in the air. The rotting food hadn’t really started out yet. That came a couple days later when the waters receded. The oil spills; remember there are cars underwater there, oil is going to leak and you could see the sheens on top of the water. So there were contaminants in the water. So the Safety Officer in the safety briefings was telling everybody, “Do what you can to stay safe. Wear the protective gear as best you can”, and that’s what we did. 

Q: Now you went out there Tuesday, is that correct?

LCDR Schaffer: Tuesday morning.

Q: Okay. Were you prepared for what you saw when you got on I-10? Did you go out actually on the boats?

LCDR Schaffer: I never actually went out on any of the boats?

Q: What were you doing down at the I-10 split?

LCDR Schaffer: I was essentially the On-scene Coordinator. I was making sure which boats go in and out, controlling traffic of the boats, keeping people away from the rescue area; spectators, news crews, keeping them apart from it and trying to run the operation eventually with the FEMA representative. The two of us would run the operation, which was good because he ended up having a little more security that he had to keep people away from the area, keep the spectators away and keep a limited number of vehicles coming down into the boat launch area. 

We looked at the facility and actually I should go back to when we first rolled up there. We were trying to find a way to get to the ISC; a route of some sort, and one of the ways we said was just try to take the I-610 and cut across the north part of the city, not fully realizing that the 610 would be completely underwater or at least portions of it. We rolled up to the I-10 split and stopped the car because I could see it was going completely underwater. Being from the area we know the area and we know the areas that normally get a couple inches of water when we get a quarter inch of rain and this was one of the areas that usually doesn’t flood. But when we saw it, it was like, “I know the height of that sign there.” The bottom of that sign is about eight or nine or ten feet deep and the water was an inch below that sign. I know it’s deep. I know that when we go around on the I-10 we go around the corner to get to the railroad bridge and that railroad bridge, the water was at the bottom and that’s 20 feet deep at that railroad bridge.

Q: When you came up there is that where you folks stopped and unloaded the boats or when did you start that?

LCDR Schaffer: We stopped and looked around. I took a few pictures just to see what it was and to get a document of what it looked like and that’s when one of the petty officers came up to me and said “Hey Mr. Schaffer, there’s somebody waving a shirt over there!” I looked over and sure enough there’s somebody waving a shirt and someone else said, “Should we launch?” “Go, launch, launch both boats. Let’s go”, and that’s when I told them; I told the senior chief and the chief warrant officer, “Launch the boats, go.” They’re their boats at this point. They’re the coxswains. Let them run the operation and I’ll sit back and I’ll coordinate this. So I got the vehicles situated back on the ramp to keep them away from the area because I knew this was going to be a bigger operation than just the two of us. I knew somewhere along the line there was going to be more assets coming in. We already knew a few more assets were coming because we passed a couple civilian boats that said, “Hey, I’ve got to go check so and so over at this location”, so we started using them and started sending them out on some rescues.

Q: But at that time when you got there, there was no one else except for your team?

LCDR Schaffer:
There were no other rescue teams in the water at that point.

Q: Yes.  And when people started coming off the boats; when your crewmembers would come back, what were they saying? Did they say anything to you or were they just happy and glad that the Coast Guard was there?

LCDR Schaffer: Most of them were very happy to be rescued whether it’s the Coast Guard or whether it’s any other boat, they were very happy that somebody was able to come and pick them up. This is 24 hours after the storm hit and if I remember right, about 14 hours after the levee broke, so most of them had had to get up on top of their roof the night before when the levee broke; the 17th Street Canal levee. The water came up probably relatively quickly for them. They weren’t expecting it so they grabbed a couple things and got up on top of their roof. When we started pulling them in we would pick up people that, that’s all they had was their shirt, shorts and maybe some bedroom slippers. There was one lady that was breaking down because that’s all she had. She didn’t have an ID card. She had nothing to tell who she was. She was basically in a nightgown and some slippers, that was it, that’s all she had. She didn’t have a house. If I remember it, she was even the one that watched her mother die. So yes, you’ve got some of those heart-wrenching stories there. You don’t think about that at the time and she’s one of them. I’ve got 350 more people coming in. I’ve got a couple thousand more that we haven’t even touched.

Q: Do you have any idea how many people they pulled in, or your team at least?

LCDR Schaffer: I know we documented 350 people that came through that were rescued from all the different vessels. Just the two Coast Guard boats, I was told by one person that one of the members they knew for sure did 38 rescues and that boat did 38 rescues. They probably did more than that. Of all the boats coming in . . . they would usually come in in boatloads of four or five people at a time. We couldn’t go too far away due to limitations of the boats, of the area they were searching, and the maps. Most of the other teams did not know the area. Virtually none of them knew the area. I do want to hit that one again in just a moment. But as far as our teams, they just went out and picked up whoever they could and brought back as many as they could, switching our crews out as often as they could.

Q: What were the crew members saying when they came back; did they relay messages of what was going on in the neighborhoods?

LCDR Schaffer: They were telling us a few stories of “If somebody doesn’t want to leave their house what are we supposed to do?” And I just said, “Take down the address of the house, the name of the person and keep going.” And I don’t remember who was the senior chief or the other chief warrant officer who called me back the second time - we did have some limited radio comms between us - and said, “Well what do we really want to do? Do we want to just leave them here?” I said, “Take the name and address because we’ll have to come back for the body later.” I don’t mean to sound cold on that but that was the reality of it; either you get rescued now or we’re going to pick the body up later. We had no idea how long this was going to last.

Q: Now at certain points early on weren’t rescue units like dropping off water and then at a point they said, “No more water or MREs”?

LCDR Schaffer: That was part of the FEMA operation several days later. I think even a week later they started saying, “Look, we’re just going to pick you up” or . . . and we dropped off some food for them every now and then but they still didn’t know how long the levee was going to stay. They didn’t know if the levee was going to be fixed yet. The first couple tries failed and so the water wasn’t receding and they had to make a decision, and that’s when I was no longer at the unit when some of those decisions were being made. But I can imagine the decision was, “Look, we can keep feeding these people on the top of their house but they’re not going to have a house to live in once the water does recede so what’s the point in feeding them? Look, you’ve got to get off.” This is where some jurisdictional questions started coming in. “Do we . . .”, and I use the “we” for every single rescuer out there, “. . . have the authority to pull a person out of their house saying, ‘You can’t stay here anymore’.” Does Mayor Nagin; did he have the authority to say, “You have to get out of your place. It’s not safe to be there anymore.” Does the government have the authority? Did Admiral Allen have that authority? That’s a mystery question that I don’t think anyone can answer.

Q: Now you said some of your team knew the areas affected but the rescuers who came in from other locations, they didn’t quite know where the areas, the streets, or where to go.

LCDR Schaffer: Right. One of the interesting things that happened when I went down to the Emergency Operations Center the next day; Wednesday morning, I pulled out one of my little maps that I carry with me all the time. It’s a little tourist map that I picked up in one of the little tourist shops in downtown New Orleans, great little maps. They’ve got all the streets on each side and I’ve used that map so much it’s fallen apart and I have to get a new one. I lay out this map . . . and let me back up one day. On Monday night before the operation, when we were up in Grangeville with the Coast Guard people, we were watching some of the newscasts. We were back in Grangeville. We were watching some of the news broadcasts; CNN, FOX, MSN, watching the news channels because that’s where we were trying to get our information. We would look at a picture that they were showing and since we knew the area we’d go, “Hey, that’s Causeway Boulevard. That’s so and so Chevrolet and that’s this location, that’s this street”, and we’d look on the map and we’d say, “Okay, that area is flooded.” We took a sticky note and put it on the map that said, “Flooded.” We went over and said, “Flooded.” So we had our map; my little tourist map, all laid out and all our little stickies on there saying,” Flooded, flooded, flooded.” And I get to the Emergency Operations Center with FEMA on Wednesday morning, I pull out this map and the first thing they asked me is, “Where did you get that?” Now when they come in it’s not that they weren’t prepared. When they come into town – and this is standard operations – you get a map of the local area. The best place to get that is AAA or Rand McNally, some map location of the city of New Orleans. That’s great. That works wonderful but it doesn’t give you all the details that you might need. And they looked at it and said, “How do you know all these areas are flooded?” I said, “We watched the news and since we know the area and we know the contour of the land, we knew this was and we knew this was.” That was more information than they knew previous. So they started asking, “Well how do we get to this location?” “Well you can’t go here, you can’t go here, but you can go over here.” “Well what’s the name of this area?” “Well this is the Gentilly section. That’s completely underwater right now. Here’s the 17th Street Canal and this whole area; the lake view, this is a very nice area, a lot of ritzy houses there. Most of those people probably have cars. They could probably get out so we might not be doing a lot of rescues there. But over here, this is one of the housing projects. None of them have cars so we’ll probably have to do a lot of rescues from there. This is another section.” We gave them more information because we knew the area and we lived in the area. 

Q: That’s great.  Now how were the communications between your chain of command; who were you interacting with and how did that work?

LCDR Schaffer:
At the end of the day when we finished our operations on the first day; Tuesday morning, Tuesday night we drove back to Grangeville. I would then give a call back to my captain at the ISC, give him a lowdown on what we did and then I would also contact the sector, because at that point we were kind of working more for the sector than we were for the ISC. I said, “This is how many operations we did. This is how many people we rescued. This is what we did. Here are some of our concerns. This is what I’m doing. This is what I see from on-site.” As best I know I don’t think anyone from the sector was down in New Orleans on that first day. Maybe they did have somebody. I was trying to give them a realistic picture of what the whole thing looked like. And you could see the helicopter overflights. You can get the video from that but it just doesn’t do it justice.

Q: When you went in on Tuesday morning with the helicopters, could you see them flying overhead?

LCDR Schaffer: Yes, they were flying, so helicopters were doing some rescues. I’m not sure but I think some rescues were obviously being made on Monday night; some of the helicopter rescues be it Coast Guard or Navy or Air Force or civilian, or other rescue entities. So I don’t know when the helicopter rescues got started but they were flying on Tuesday morning when we were going out there. They were flying every single day.

Q: Now when people would come back to Zephyr Field; the operational people, what was their mood like? What was the mood like at Zephyr Field after people got through with their days? I mean they went through decon and got all washed off but what was their attitude?

LCDR Schaffer: We didn’t have a decon the first few days.

Q: Oh you didn’t, okay.

LCDR Schaffer: No there wasn’t, which should have happened, but there again, with no running water and just getting everything set up. They were coming back; the guys from Grangeville and the guys and gals from ISC, they would go back up to Grangeville and do their rest and relaxation up there. The DARTs, the MSSTs, everyone else that was at Zephyr Field would come back. We had some travel trailers; mobile homes, RVs, that the people would stay in. We gave them some comforts of living. The mood was generally upbeat because virtually all these people were from outside the area coming in to help, which there again comes into the same idea from before that they didn’t know the area so they were just coming in there and picking people up off the roofs. It’s a rescue job for them. But for some of our people and some of the sector people, when they actually started coming down and doing some of the rescues, that became you’re rescuing your own. You’re rescuing your neighbor. There were a few people that either may have had a problem or might have a problem with that later on as a part of CISM. It’s not an easy thing to rescue somebody you know or rescue somebody in your own neighborhood. It’s a little bit different when the Station would have to go out and pick up a sailboat that’s out in Lake Pontchartrain. That’s normal operations. But when you’re floating down the road that you normally drive down and picking that same person off their house instead of off their sailboat it’s a little bit different. So the mood of the people back at Zephyr Field, as far as the outside people that came in to help, was generally a, “Yes, we’re here to help. We want to go help. We just want to help. Don’t make us sit here. We want to go out and do help. We want to go to work.” 

Wednesday was a difficult day because that’s when there were the reports of shootings going on, which for me was very difficult in two ways. One: I’ve got all these people, not just the Coast Guard people but a thousand rescue personnel who came in from all over the country. They’re here to rescue. They’re here to help. We had to shut them down. We had to make a decision as the unified command, “For rescuer’s safety we’re not going to send you out.” So here’s the big question: how many people died because of that?” Because one person decided to shoot a gun near a helicopter, not at a helicopter but in the vicinity thereof, that we had to shut down all rescue operations for the whole area because of one silly act.

Q: Was that a FEMA decision?

LCDR Schaffer: It was a unified command decision.

Q: Unified command decision. And was there a lot of argument of you doing that? How did that evolve?

LCDR Schaffer: For the four people; myself, the FEMA rep, the Jefferson Parish and the Louisiana Fish and Wildlife, between the four of us we sat in a room and came to that conclusion. It didn’t take long to come to that conclusion. We’re here to save people. We’re not here to fight. We’re not here to shoot people.

Q: Now when you told your operational people your decision were they disappointed in that? Did they want to argue with that decision?

LCDR Schaffer: I think they were a little disappointed but at the same time, with the exception of MSSTs who are designed to do both shoot and rescue at the same time, I know it’s a very simplistic way to say it for the MSSTs, they go armed. That’s part of their job is security and they can do rescue as well. So they could have gone but I said, “I’m not going to put any Coastee at risk. It’s not a situation that we know of. We don’t know where they’re shooting so I don’t know how to deploy you and I don’t know how you would know how to deploy yourself to be able to defend yourself, so we’re not going to do it. We’re just not going to do it.”

Q: Now at what point did the unified command decide, “Okay, we’re going to get back to operations”?

LCDR Schaffer: I believe it was later that day we did send some units out to do some work. We were able to get a little bit more information on where the supposed shooting happened. I have to say supposed because there are still reports that there never was a shooting. I don’t know which one to believe, but at the time with the information we had it was, “They’re shooting at this location.” And to get to some of the places we needed to rescue we had to go by that and that was part of the reason we said, “No-go.” Once we felt the situation was a little more stable in that area we did send some people out in the Coast Guard or other assets, they were sent out.

Q: Now did you meet Commander Gilreath down at Zephyr Field when the initial startup phases were evolving for that? When did you come into the Zephyr Field arena?

LCDR Schaffer: I helped establish the Zephyr Field arena for the Coast Guard. I was, as far as I understood, I was the first Coast Guard person there and Commander Gilreath came in, I believe it was on Thursday to relieve me. And there again, that was one of my recommendations up to the sector was, “You need to get somebody down here now because this is where all the operations are happening. We need some more Coast Guard people here.” I made a recommendation of about 12 Coast Guard personnel that were needed there in various positions; one as the unified commander but also as a Coast Guard scene commander in charge of just the Coast Guard units who would then report to the unified command. So as much recommendations as I would put in for we did get two people to come in early, I mean which was better than just one or better than none at all. And Commander Gilreath right away knew what he needed to do to take charge of the Coast Guard units there and how to address them and how to set them up because we started getting more Coast Guard assets in there. I believe when I started there was myself and I think one or two other people that were helping in a different area of the FEMA logistics section. By the end of the first day I think there were 30 Coast Guard personnel there and by the time Commander Gilreath came in there was almost a hundred with all the different boats and the DART and the MSST, and trailers and everything. It was getting too much for me to handle as far as I can’t run the Coast Guard side of the shop and do the unified command at the same time. We needed to have somebody do two separate jobs; one as unified command to make those decisions and somebody who could be in charge of the Coast Guard assets. With at least two people, one person took charge of the Coast Guard assets of which he could still direct and oversee but didn’t have to deal with them directly and that worked out very well as far as I can see when I left.

Q: Now do you think the ICS and unified command structure worked well in this whole operation?

LCDR Schaffer: Yes and no. This would be a wonderful case study for everyone to look at and say, “How did ICS work? How was it set up? Did it really function properly?” From the FEMA standpoint, and this is where I’ll go back to the . . . FEMA is designed to come in and help the local command out. They’re designed to come in. They’ve got key people in key positions that will assist your normal operations that you have going on. And this is where the biggest problem of the whole organization was; Jefferson Parish was not talking to Orleans Parish, which was not talking to St. Bernard Parish, be it they physically could not, they physically were not located together. There was no single local unit that FEMA could come in to assist. So they sat down and said, “Okay, we’ll help you guys here; Jefferson Parish, and we’ll bring in some of the other people as best we can.” I don’t know when, if ever, Orleans finally got into that whole FEMA operations mix. And because of that FEMA is designed on the full ICS. That’s all they talk is ICS and they functioned very well with that. The Coast Guard is still learning ICS. We still have some problems understanding which one goes where and who’s qualified with what. It’s taking us a little while. Some facets of the Coast Guard, some people in the Coast Guard are very adept at it. Other people still can’t even spell ICS unfortunately. It is working if you do it exactly how it’s set up and designed to do. Unfortunately some of the Coast Guard processes that are in place are not necessarily in contradiction to ICS, it just seems like a duplicative effort. A simple thing in the ICS; you have to submit a Form 214 to request something. I want to request a copy machine. You submit a 214. You submit that over to Logistics and Logistics goes and gets you a copy machine. Unfortunately the Coast Guard, once you get that 214 you have to create a PR; a Purchase Request, a very simple thing but it seems like a duplicative effort. And the Coast Guard logistics mentality; a storekeeper’s mentality would be, “Why don’t you just submit a PR in the first place?” Well that’s because we’re doing an ICS and we have to keep the forms within ICS consistent even though it differs from what normal Coast Guard operations are. And that’s a very simplistic example of it but blow that up 5,000 times and that’s what you have here with Katrina and Rita, the whole operation. We’re requesting more than just a copier. We’re requesting 500 buses. We’re requesting 50,000 MREs, actually 200,000 MREs and water, and this, and ways to get them down there. It’s more than just a simple purchase request. So the Coast Guard is still coming up to speed with how to use ICS appropriately and this was a good example of it did work and then it didn’t work because of some other things.

Q: Well you could see how the Coast Guard could integrate ICS into its system after the fact here and improve its procedures.

LCDR Schaffer: Absolutely, and an idea was sprouted chatting with some other people on this, “Why doesn’t the Coast Guard just set up its normal operations in an ICS structure?” The question becoming very apparent now was, “We are demobilizing people from the ICS logistics branch back into the New Orleans sector logistics division. What’s the difference?” Well there really isn’t. “So why do we have to shift people around from doing this job to this job if it’s the same job?” So there could be a potential that we could just set up the Coast Guard in this ICS structure in which case we don’t have to stand up a whole new ICS system and retrain everybody and reposition everybody. You’re just already in that position. That’s your normal job. It’s a concept. I don’t think it will ever take hold. We’ll see.

Q: Well are there any other procedures or policies that could be improved in the future, especially dealing with this type of event?

LCDR Schaffer: When the Commandant happened to come down and gave us a briefing of things for everybody and for our hard work here at Alexandria, one of the questions I happened to propose to him was, “Are we going to look at the planning cycle? I know because I wrote our plan for our ISC for our unit and it says in three to five days after the storm we’ll be back to normal operations. Sorry, I didn’t look at the plan saying our base is going to be obliterated.” “Oops.” The planning cycle really has to come back into play, not just in emergency planning here but support planning; the Reservists. That’s part of my normal job as Force Optimization Training is to help recall Reservists. And as a matter of fact we’re doing that even today with the sector saying, “Why do you still need all these storekeepers in logistics? Aren’t you switching back from Alexandria down to New Orleans and becoming your normal operation? Why the confusion here? Its two months after the fact. We’re not really at a surge anymore, are we”, and that’s the whole idea of contingency is surge operations. While we were able to sit down with the logistics person there and the logistics branch chief; the actual sector logistics person, and they explained to us what billets they’re doing and all these things are over and above what is in the normal job description of a sector logistics. And I’m sure it probably didn’t help that two weeks before Katrina Sector NOLA stood up and so everybody was still kind of learning their job and what all their roles and responsibilities were. And then to throw a hurricane and a disaster and all this on top of it, okay it’s a lot. It’s a lot more than anyone thought it could be. And what they have to do after the fact, yes, they’re going to need more people.

Q: Now is there any particular training that you found most useful that you fell back on; was it the ICS or something else that you felt was just invaluable?

LCDR Schaffer: I’ve been dealing with the ICS for about 16 years and having been in the Coast Guard not even 15 years I was dealing with the ICS before I came in the Coast Guard, so I’ve understood it since Day One. I’ve felt it was the way the Coast Guard should be dealing with it. The Coast Guard can probably do better with ICS and I think ICS did help keep things straight as far as my perspective on how to address things. When I had to go to the FEMA Operations Center, yes, I had to step up, I was the On-scene Coordinator the first day with the unified commander there doing on-scene stuff but then I knew I had to step up to the next level and that means I can’t really sit there and direct this boat to go there and this boat to go here and talk about that stuff. My job as a unified commander is to oversee the operations. I’ll let the planning officer tell me where they want to go with the boats and maybe me as the local expert as far as local knowledge, those are my towns. I live here. I might be able to help them out saying, “You may want to go to this area but you won’t be able to cross this line because the railroad tracks are there”, and they didn’t know that, or, “There’s a power line here”, or “There’s something in the way.” But that’s my job as the unified commander is to look at it from the higher points of view, and the rest of the Coast Guard, I think, needs to understand that. I have a feeling that some of the operational commanders here were still trying to do too much operations, even if they were at the 0-5/0-6 level, were supposed to let other people do that. They shouldn’t be the ones directing this boat to go there. And we can even push it up to the district level. The district should allow the sector to do their job and should allow the ISC to do their job. We were contacting, as part of a normal recall afterwards, we were trying to account for everybody. We were calling every person. We were trying to get a hold of every single person attached to the ISC. That’s our job. That’s the XO’s job. He’s responsible for all the people. And we were a little amazed and taken aback when District said, “Every single person here has to call up to the district people cell so we can account for everybody.” Well isn’t that putting more work on the district? Isn’t that the job of the XO of every unit is to account for their people and then tell the district, “Yes, we’ve accounted for everybody except for this. Can you help me find these two or three people”, so a little bit of frustration to see the district almost stepping on our toes a little bit. 

You asked about other training. Going back to the SAR controller on the first tour I had down in GANTSEC as an officer; my search and rescue training, okay, you learn how to do search patterns. Oh yes, we learn what the pictures are and how big you need to look at, and if you’re going out searching for a sailboat you have a nice defined target, very pinpointed, “Let’s go search right there for that sailboat.” If you’re searching for a missing person you’ve got a little bit larger area to search, you’re going to do something else and you’ll have to use different assets, and that’s part of the question here; we’re inside a city. We’ve got a number of obstacles we don’t know about and we had to make a decision, “No, we’re not going to bring that boat. No, I’m not going to send that MSST boat. That’s DB. DB’s can’t go very shallow and we’re in shallow water. It’s not going to work.” So there was some of that training of knowing your assets, what’s available for you, how to apply them, how to send them up but don’t burn them up so quickly; rotate the people around. These are things that I learned as a SAR controller. Even going back to before I was in the Coast Guard I was a lifeguard. That was my lifestyle; life guarding, EMS; Emergency Medical Services, first aid, CPR training, that all fell into play and I could use that. I knew that we had to do some safety things. “Okay, let’s make sure we bring a medic with us.” Actually my senior chief made that recommendation the night before; Monday night, saying, “We’re going to bring the corpsman along.” I said, “Absolutely”, because it’s not just for us to take care of us but we might run across some people that had a cut or a scratch or something so we need to have them there. It fell into play when I went to the FEMA operations as the unified command, I could talk to the medical and I could ask them intelligent questions, okay. “Do you have saline solution because we’re going to need it for these people”, rather than, “How are you going to deal with your dehydrated people?” Knowing a little bit more helps you ask intelligent questions.

Q: Now is there any memorable story that you can recount for us after you . . . in the day that you spent off I-10 or at Zephyr Field was there somebody that you thought was exemplary in their service or some incident that happened?

LCDR Schaffer: The whole thing . . . I know the warrant officer did submit one of the people that was on one of the boats. We had one female fireman who did an incredible job on one of the rescues; pretty much saved the boat from being capsized as well as saving a person. She’s five feet tall, 98 pounds and she stopped a 200-pound person from crashing down off a roof and put him into the boat. That’s really putting it simply. There was a lot more to it I’m sure. I didn’t even hear about that the first day. I didn’t hear about it the second day. I just heard about it here almost two months later when her name was being submitted as Sailor of the Quarter for us.

Q: And what is her name, do you know?

LCDR Schaffer: I didn’t know you were going to ask me that. 

Q: [Chuckle] Sorry. You got the first one. 

LCDR Schaffer: Her name is totally blank.

Q: That’s alright, we’ll get her name.

LCDR Schaffer: I’ll get her name eventually [chuckle]. Fireman . . .

Q: We’ll delete this part of the interview.

LCDR Schaffer: Thank you [laughter]. There were way too many names coming through.

Q: I know, I’ve heard a lot of them.

LCDR Schaffer: Memorable items? Interestingly, standing there at the I-10/610, the sun beating down, I got my two boats going out, they’re doing rescues, and before they came back with the very first one I pretty much sat up and thought to myself, I said, “Okay, this is the big one that Dr. Maestri [phonetic], one of the local emergency preparedness officers from St. Bernard Parish; Dr. Walter Maestri [phonetic], had been predicting for the last 10/15/20 years - I don’t even know how long – that, “We’re going to get a big one. New Orleans is going to get a big one and this was the big one and I’m here to experience it.” So I thought, “Not necessarily a good thing but I’m here to help and I’m here running operations. I’m helping. I’m rescuing people. I may not be physically out there holding a person’s hand, getting them down off a roof and putting them into the boat”, and this is where I’ve started learning a few things. My vast number of years in the Coast Guard, that may have helped. I was a lifeguard before I came here. I was a Seaman my first few years, had just been a swim instructor pulling ten people out of the pool every single day. That’s my job and I did that and I had a great time doing it. I loved it. I miss it. As I moved up, became an officer and starting moving up the ranks and finally a lieutenant commander, I’m not supposed to do these rescues anymore. I can and I would love to. I would love to be jumping out of the helicopter doing rescue swimmer work. I feel like I probably can still do it even but it’s not my position to do that. It’s my job to make sure other people can do those things. It’s my job to coordinate. It’s my job is to oversee it. It’s my job to make sure that someone is in the right position to do the right rescue at the right time.

Q: Now were you personally affected by the hurricane? Did you have property or anything?

LCDR Schaffer: My wife and I have a house. We’re renting a condominium actually in a complex in New Orleans and in the first couple days we had no idea what the status was. The location is in the Marigny, which is right next to the French Quarter. We had seen some photos of the area from one of the news trucks that happened to be in the area and we thought, “Maybe our place is safe.” We saw some footage on CNN or MSN of a corner house that all of the bricks had fallen off the front of it. It looked like it was partially collapsed and the guy’s computer was sitting up on the second floor in his office up there. We looked at that a couple times and we said, “Hey, that’s the guy directly catty-corner from us. It’s on the exact same corner.” So okay, his house got hit pretty hard. And as the camera panned away it showed the street and I immediately looked at the street and the water in the street and said, “It’s not over the sidewalk, we’re safe.” We had no water damage. You say, “Well how do you know?” Well our unit that we live in is slightly higher than the sidewalk level and if the water was only up to the sidewalk - and this is Monday afternoon, Tuesday morning, seeing these photos - I don’t think we got wet. I was able to actually . . . actually my overflight that I took on Wednesday right after the storm with the Jefferson Parish helicopter, I flew around and got to see the overall picture of it. And there were two specific items that I wanted to look at. I wanted to look at the ISC, to see the location. Was it damaged? Was it underwater? Was it accessible? And I wanted to see, just swing by this area to see if my house was okay. And we did both. My house looked fine. It didn’t look like there was any major damage. There wasn’t any looting on it either. That was the other important thing that was coming out those first couple days. 

The ISC; I was able to see that. I saw a lot of water on the industrial side of our base, on the floodwall inside of that. And on the administrative side of the base there was a lot of water and I was a little bit worried about that because, as we found out now, there was about two and a half feet of water in our main area in our administrative building and a foot and a half of water in the other building. Water went up and over the floodwall and so there was ten to twelve feet of water that had come into the industrial side of the base. We knew it was going to be hit pretty hard and we couldn’t get access to the base right away but we tried as best we could and got in there a few days later with a team and was able to access the base. 

But our house was fine. I was very happy about that. But it’s also one of those things I didn’t really want to advertise because out of my ten people on my staff, five of them lost their places; of the PF staff. On the work-life staff or PW staff, they, I think, had 12 people and six of them lost their places. And the Industrial, several people there, and Engineering, several lost their places. I wasn’t going to go strutting around saying, “Hey, I didn’t lose anything.” No, wrong thing to say, wrong thing to even think. I’m more concerned about them. What am I going to do about them?

Q: So how long have you been here in Alexandria? This was the Incident Command Post.

LCDR Schaffer: This was the incident command post for the sector and the ISC kept running, and Commander Flynn; the XO, decided that, “This would be the location that the ISC will have to recongregate. We’re scattered to the winds.” Relatively early on they knew that the ISC was hit pretty hard and that we wouldn’t be going back there anytime real soon. And since there was already a contingent of Coast Guard personnel here in Alexandria my guess is they made the decision, “Let’s all go to Alexandria.” I came up here I believe it was Saturday or Sunday. The days are a blur; I’m sorry [chuckle].

Q: But after the first week.

LCDR Schaffer: It was after the first week I got up here and started helping establish the ISC. With our people spread all over the place it was a matter of getting a hold of them, contacting them, “Come on back here or better yet, do we have something for you to do if we bring you back here.” The XO told me that he wanted me up here because Commander Tschannen; the personnel officer, was going to be up in St. Louis with the rest of the district incident management team and so he would be unavailable, so he needed me to come in and be the personnel officer. “Yes Sir”, and so I just step up one level saying, “I’m not going to do my normal job because I don’t have the facility to do it. I don’t have the phones or connectivity to do it. All of my PF people; my ten people, they’re scattered right now. ISC St. Louis, you’re going to have to take over the PF functions because I can’t.” So they did, they took it over. We eventually sent up some of our additional PF people up there to help them out and reestablish ISC New Orleans PF in St. Louis. I remained here as the personnel officer until such time as my boss, Commander Tschannen, was able to take it over remotely. He’s still not here but he can do all of his functions by remote; by computer and by telephone. And we work very well together. I trust my boss, I have to, and he’s doing everything up there and so I’m just the physical presence here. If anyone physically needs a personnel officer’s signature I’m the one that signs it. But otherwise he was back to normal operations. But it took a while to get everybody reset up. It took a while to figure out what we needed to do here and what can we do here. Once we start getting some more computers here what else can we do? What other services can we provide?” And we started expanding out each branch, each division, into more of what they can do until I believe it was two weeks after the fact we were up and running to an extent that we could call ourselves ISC New Orleans again. And every couple weeks we started saying, “We can do this, we can do this.” The weekend when Rita came through; four weeks after Katrina came in, we brought down from St. Louis the rest of the PF staff, reestablished them down here and said, “Okay, we’re back to normal as best as we can.” Operations have been running since then.

Q: Now do you know long you’ll be in this location; indefinitely?

LCDR Schaffer: That’s a wonderful question. I think the projections are since the physical building of ISC New Orleans was damaged extensively - I believe they said it was 75 percent damaged - CEU Miami has basically said, “We won’t be able to move you back in.” It’s cost-prohibitive to renovate that place, move us back in, because in the long term; three to five years, we were already scheduled to be moved up to the NASA Michoud, which is a new facility slightly east of downtown New Orleans, about five or six miles east of our present location. That’s already been in the works. So we were scheduled to be moved in but that schedule just got bumped up a couple years. It’s going to be a brand new facility. They’re going to build a new one for us. And that’s nice, in three years we’ll have a new facility but we need someplace to live and work in the next couple years. The working model that I understand at this point is we will be getting modular buildings put in place out at Michoud temporarily while we watch the new facility get built. That hopefully will be in the January to April timeframe. But living here for six months, that’s not going to be the greatest. So the Captain would like to try and get us back into New Orleans sooner if we could in the December to January timeframe so that people who do have a house to live in can go back and live in their house. For the ones that don’t have a place to live we still need to find a facility, be it a hotel or an unaccompanied personnel housing unit, and that’s part of our job as the ISC for the housing. We’re responsible for that. So we’re trying to work out those details to see how many people do we need housing for. Oh yes, it’s not just ISC people; not just the 60 people from the ISC out of the 150 that lost their place and have no place to live for the next 12 months, but how many at the district, how many in the sector, how many at the air station, how many at the ANT, how many at the station? You start adding up all the numbers and we might be having four or five hundred people that need a place to live at least for six or eight months or a year. That’s what we have to find.

Q: Now how did you procure the Louisiana Convention Center?

LCDR Schaffer: I believe that was actually done prior from the sector. This was actually the sector’s alternate location for them to evacuate to. So when Sector decided to bug out, or I should say the district gave them the order to, “Go ahead and evacuate your facility”, their plan was to come up to Alexandria at the Louisiana Convention Center, which they had already then had a contract set up in place apparently and that’s where they decided to stand themselves up. We just decided to piggyback with them and then my guess is we decided to piggy-back with them saying, “Hey, Coasties are already here. A couple more Coasties won’t hurt.” Once we started getting here and getting a little more established then its like, “Okay, we’re going to bring a lot more Coasties here from the ISC and the sector’s going to be bringing in a lot more Coasties in and contractors now, and we’ll start taking care of everything. Our contracting people have been very, very, very busy. They’re doing a very good job.

Q: Now is there anything that we haven’t covered that you’d care to share with us?

LCDR Schaffer: Open-ended question.

Q: That’s right. This is for history.

LCDR Schaffer:
History. We heard a number of comments and I echo the comments. The Coast Guard is doing a really good job of taking care of everyone and that means the victims that we pick up from the water, our people that were doing the rescues, our TDY people coming in from all over the country to help out, our families, for taking care of everything. There was a comment about, I believe it was a pilot who made - she was a crossover from another service - and she said, “This is absolutely amazing that the Coast Guard’s even thinking about this level and actually doing it; taking care of the families, sending them on orders making sure they have the money available to take care of whatever housing or food they need.” She said - in the Army or Air Force or whatever service she was in – “They never would have done that.” They never would have thought about it.” We’re very proactive to the families to that extent. We’re looking at the housing right now. We’re not looking at families, we’re looking at the primaries. We need to get the military members back home because the families have already been taken care of. We gave them up to 180 days per diem and we; the Coast Guard, gave the families 180 days to go live someplace else for up to six months because we know you won’t be able to live back in New Orleans right now. So we’ve done a very good job of taking care of them.

Q: All right. Anything else?

LCDR Schaffer: I’m sure there are a zillion other things going on in my mind and I’m going to kick myself for not knowing the fireman’s name [chuckle]. I’m still working on that one.

Q: [Chuckle] You’ve got to find it out for me.

LCDR Schaffer: I will find it out.

Q: Okay.  Thank you. That was great.


Last Modified 1/12/2016