JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C., –
The date is Aug. 29, 2005, and Hurricane Katrina makes landfall on the Gulf Coast. The Category 4 storm ravages the area, destroying everything in its wake, including the city of New Orleans, La. Thousands of people desperately flee the region, but many are not so lucky. Through the chaos, family members are separated from each other.
Many children and elderly were among the nearly 2,000 people who died in that hurricane and subsequent floods. The nation watched in horror as images of lost and scared children and thousands of newly homeless are replayed on television sets across the country.
Staff Sgt. Michael Wise, 628th Force Support Squadron, Air Force Personnel Accountability and Assessment System moderator, was a young Airman stationed at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., during Hurricane Katrina. He spent countless hours volunteering and helping in the clean-up.
"One major problem the Department of Defense had during Katrina was accountability for its people," said Wise. "Commanders couldn't get 100 percent accountability of their Airmen and their families. We need accountability for many reasons; most importantly, safety, but also if you know who isn't actually accounted for, you can dedicate more time to finding them."
Hurricane Katrina is just one example of a recent natural disaster. Other disasters have come and gone throughout the years requiring the Air Force to develop a system to effectively account for its members and dependents.
One program, AFPAAS, helps keep people in touch during a crisis and Joint Base Charleston, in conjunction with the Air Force, has recently been conducting exercises to test the AFPAAS system.
AFPAAS is a web-based application used to account for and assess the needs of the Air Force total force including active-duty Airmen, selected Reserve members, Department of the Air Force and non-appropriated fund civilian employees, Air Force contractors overseas and family members.
"In the wake of any manmade or natural disaster, AFPAAS can help provide 100 percent accountability of all personnel and dependents," said Wise. "My job is to ensure 100 percent accountability for all active-duty Air Force units at JB Charleston.
"The program is a wonderful way to account for all Airmen," Wise continued. "During the wildfires in Colorado earlier this year, the Air Force implemented AFPAAS. Within one day of implementation, we are able to account for all Airmen and their dependents on our installation. It's things like AFPAAS that will keep the Air Force safe in the face of whatever incidents come our way."
According to Wise, all Airmen are responsible for letting their command know if they have any dependents affected in the crisis area, such as New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. In addition, Airmen should only account for dependents enrolled in their Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System account.
"AFPAAS allows commanders and units to account, assess, manage and monitor the recovery process and wellness of their Airmen and families," said Wise. "Having information available to the command will help keep everything organized, which benefits the safety for all Airmen at JB Charleston and Air Force wide."
AFPAAS can be accessed from the Air Force Portal, AF.mil and the Air Force Personnel Center website at www.afpc.af.mil
or visit the myPers website athttp://mypers.af.mil
For Navy personnel, please visit the Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System at http://navyfamily.navy.mil