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EPLOs provide critical coordination to FEMA disaster relief efforts

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas (AFNS) -- As three CH-47 Chinooks flew into Joint Base San Antonio-Seguin Auxiliary Airfield from the west, , Col. Harry Hughes, an emergency preparedness liaison officer, quickly worked through how to alleviate a back-up of overflow truck traffic onto the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Incident Support Base.

Hughes, along with Col. Dave Edwards, is responsible for coordinating JBSA-Seguin ISB operations through JBSA's Crisis Action Team, other military and federal agencies, plus state and local agencies to ensure FEMA has all the resources they need to accomplish disaster relief missions in a safe manner.

“Being an EPLO is really about supporting civil authorities in time of disaster,” Hughes said. “We’re on the ground to ensure operations are coordinated, and that they’re safe.”

Training for EPLOs is done through a combination of FEMA online training and finishing a course held at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. Although each branch of the service has EPLOs who coordinate with FEMA, the Air Force is unique in that all the EPLOs are reservists, Hughes said.

Being an EPLO is full of high-intensity work and can put one in locations all around the U.S.

“It’s a pretty interesting job and you never know where you might end up working during a disaster,” Hughes said. “Since becoming an EPLO in 2012, I’ve worked on the East Coast during Hurricane Sandy, the West Coast during the California wildfires and now I’m in Texas for (Hurricane) Harvey.”

Hughes, who works as a commercial airline captain in the civilian world and has piloted multiple aircraft in his almost 30 years of active duty and Reserve service, is happy for the opportunity to serve those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

“Our hearts go out to everyone in Texas and Louisiana affected by this disaster,” Hughes said. “We are proud to know that all of this hard work is so helpful to those who need it most.”

During normal operations, Seguin Auxiliary Airfield is owned and operated by JBSA and serves as a flying training location for pilots from the 12th Flying Training Wing, located at JBSA-Randolph.