Click here for the PDF of the article as it originally appeared in the PAE employee magazine.
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season affected millions and left a path of destruction. With a 20,000+ global workforce, it was inevitable that Hurricanes Harvey, Irma or Maria impacted PAE employees personally and professionally. The stories from these employees share a theme of comradery, determination and selflessness.
Hurricane Harvey Creates Severe Conditions in Texas
Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas as a category four on a Friday in late August. At the onset of the storm, PAE Johnson Space Center (JSC) leaders activated additional maintenance personnel to support PAE operations staff. "We asked people to come into work outside of their normal work schedules," said PAE JSC Program Manager Stephen Brettel. "They knew they would be working long-hard hours and leaving their families during a difficult and dangerous time, but did so willingly." By Saturday evening, the conditions were so severe that PAE employees could not leave JSC.
Committed to the NASA Mission
Six maintenance and eight operations employees worked around the clock to ensure operations at JSC ran as smoothly as possible. "The person who probably got the least amount of sleep that weekend was our boiler operator," said Stephen. "He was a one-man show monitoring the pressure, temperature and control center of the boiler for three days straight. Water completely surrounded the site and no other technician could reach JSC to relieve him or assist."
"Many of our employees are specially licensed to perform their job, which made relieving employees of their duties during this time extremely difficult," said Stephen. One employee forded floodwaters to support a liquid nitrogen transfer on the James Webb Space Telescope, saving NASA's $4B telescope. Mission control, where NASA maintains communication and provides 24/7 support to U.S. astronauts at the International Space Station, also required PAE's ongoing support.
"It was amazing to see our employees step up during such a time," said PAE JSC Human Resources and Labor Relations Manager Janis Roderman. "People's homes were flooding and their families evacuating, and our employees still made the commitment to work around the clock to support NASA's mission."
"After the storm cleared, each day brought more and more employees eager to get back to work," said PAE JSC Deputy Manager Chris Provenzano. "They weren't sad or mad, they were determined to get to work." In the three days after Hurricane Harvey, the PAE team completed 638 work orders, which is typically what the team accomplishes in one month. This allowed JSC to re-open in record-breaking time.
Hurricane Maria Cripples Puerto Rico
The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) contract jumped into action for all three hurricanes. "Due to the maintenance nature of our work with CBP, we are always prepared to travel to locations where CBP is activated for temporary duty," said CBP Program Manager Rob Ulses. "These three hurricanes were no exception; we temporarily relocated 103 people to support the CBP mission. This is in addition to 76 employees who live in an area impacted by one of the hurricanes who were already on-site to provide support."
Clean Clothes, Food and Cash in a Crisis
Hurricane Maria barreled through Puerto Rico in mid-September as a category four, causing catastrophic damage and a major humanitarian crisis. "The entire island was without power, making relief efforts and our day-to-day operations difficult," said Maintenance Controls Specialist Jeff Federman.
Early on, PAE CBP leadership bought a washer and a dryer for the generator powered hangar CBP is operating out of so employees could have clean clothes for work. In addition to ensuring a steady flow of bottled water and meal, ready-to-eat kits (or MREs), leadership leveraged the very aircraft they maintain to shuttle groceries from Florida to Puerto Rico for break rooms. "That food run might only last a week, but at least we are providing employees nutritious food to get them through the day," said PAE CBP Senior Business Manager Brian Schock.
Since the power is out, people cannot go to the bank and take out money, making it extremely difficult for people to secure cash to purchase basic supplies. "We worked with PAE payroll to set up weekly payroll advances," said Brian. "We are wiring money through Western Union, cashing it in Florida and flying people's payroll advances to Puerto Rico."
"We are taking everything day-by-day," said Brian. "We are proud to support CBP as first responders during this crisis and cannot thank our employees enough for their dedication to the mission."
Overcoming Obstacles Through Teamwork
There are countless stories of selflessness across both programs. "Employees helped each other clean up their homes after long workdays. Employees with trade skills offered to check in on damaged homes. Employees offered others shelter and organized rides to work." These are just a few examples of the PAE spirit in a crisis," said Janis. "Everyone really came together to support one another."
"Our employees stepped up to support CBP operations, overcoming substantial obstacles," said PAE Maintenance Supervisor Kurt Collier. "They have the drive and aptitude to assist CBP. These are hardworking individuals making a difference."