DOD urges civilian employees to volunteer for relief effort

By Donna Miles

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2005  - In light of the ongoing need for volunteers to support hurricane relief efforts in the Gulf, the Defense Department is encouraging its federal civilian employees to consider participating.

In a Sept. 8 memo to department leaders, David S. C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, urged DoD employees to offer their services, as long as it doesn't impact on their immediate defense mission.

In a related move, Chu announced DoD's participation in an emergency leave transfer program to help employees affected by Hurricane Katrina. That measure, authorized throughout the federal government by President Bush, will allow DoD civilian employees to donate unused annual leave to other federal civilian employees who need more time off from work due to the hurricane.

DoD components are establishing programs and are expected to begin seeking leave donors as well as requests for help soon.

In his memo regarding the volunteer program, Chu noted that the Department of Homeland Security anticipates the need for 2,000 volunteers to help with the federal government's response and recovery efforts under way. As a result, he said, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is offering federal civilian employees the opportunity to volunteer for 14- to 30-day deployments to affected areas to help support DoD efforts.

Volunteers will remain on the DoD payrolls and be will be in a temporary-duty status while performing their volunteer service, Chu said.

Mark Smith from the Defense Civilian Personnel Management Service said he expects the program to become an ongoing effort between DoD and FEMA, with ongoing volunteer rotations for the foreseeable future.

While encouraging employees to volunteer, Chu emphasized that they must receive their supervisor's approval before volunteering, and that their temporary absence from the workplace "cannot diminish or compromise service or support to our critical DoD mission."

Volunteers must go through their Defense Department component point of contact, not FEMA, to offer their services, Smith emphasized.

Details about both the leave-donation and volunteer programs are posted at the DoD Civilian Personnel Management Service's Web site,, under the "Hurricane Katrina" link. The site also includes points of contact within DoD about where to apply for the volunteer program, Smith said.

All volunteers must be physically able to work outdoors all day in a disaster area, with long work hours under arduous conditions, officials said. They also must require no refrigeration for medications.

Skills particularly in demand are bilingual capabilities in all languages, a commercial driver's license, logistics capabilities and expertise in information technology, officials said.

Before deploying to the affected area, all volunteers will receive one day of training in Orlando, Fla., before moving to the hurricane disaster area, officials said.