Chief's experience serves hurricane relief

  • Published
  • By Mike Molina
  • Editor
Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Chief Master Sgt. Chris Vandenberg served for two years as a mobilized Individual Mobilization Augmentee on the Air Force Crisis Action Team at the Pentagon. 

Nearly three years ago, he led the National Guard Bureau's manpower, personnel and services staff as they responded to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The 24-year veteran of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard has been a contingency planner for several years of his career. 

In September, the superintendent at the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver found himself supporting yet another contingency operation. 

The chief recently spent two weeks at the National Guard Bureau's Joint Operations Center in Arlington, Va., where he served on the Air National Guard liaison desk, fielding requests for assistance from state JOCs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and other local and state agencies. There he worked with Guard units across the country to provide airlift, medical technicians, satellite communications, security assistance, medical supplies, water, blankets and other supplies to areas affected by Hurricane Ike. 

"It's like moving another city in there," he said. "And because of the lessons learned from Katrina, the preplanning and execution was superb." 

During contingency operations, the JOC is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Requests from different states and agencies come in at all hours, and sometimes compete for the same resources. Coordinating all of it is the challenge of the JOC staff. 

"It is very satisfying to know you're making an immediate and direct impact," Chief Vandenberg said. "You're truly helping save lives."

Although his duties as ARPC's superintendent usually don't involve emergency management, the chief said his experiences with contingency operations are an asset wherever he goes. 

"It helps you understand management of people and resources," he said. "It enables you to see the big picture." 

The chief said his mission at ARPC also gives him a chance to have a positive impact on others. 

"I believe it's my duty to protect and further the interests and quality of life of our enlisted force -- active, Guard and Reserve," he said.

Chief Vandenberg has been ARPC's superintendent since August 2007. He is the first Guardsman to serve as ARPC superintendent.