Capt. Fred Mingo: Calm heads prevail in crisis response

Mingo initiated a continuity of operations plan that kept Spawar in business when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans

Capt. Fred Mingo would be the first to acknowledge that the Navy trained him well to deal with any situation. Others might add that he showed extraordinary leadership and sensitivity in dealing with employees who lost everything when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans.

As commanding officer of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center-New Orleans, the Navy’s information technology services support group, Mingo initiated a continuity of operations plan that kept Spawar in business. He ordered Customer Support Center services and computer operations to be transferred to the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Forth Worth, Texas. That move let the Navy maintain its ability to issue orders to Navy reservists, and all Navy employees continued to receive their pay and benefits.

“Capt. Mingo is a visionary leader who is committed to the people and mission of the Department of the Navy,” said David Wennergren, the department’s chief information officer. “He has the fortitude and commitment to react rapidly to changing environments, always placing mission accomplishment as the single priority over everything else.”

With 15 years spent in New Orleans, Mingo knew how to prepare for hurricanes. But Katrina’s devastating blow knocked out the city’s telecommunications infrastructure and scattered employees.

Overnight the command ceased to be a physical community and instead became a virtual one, Mingo said. At the command level, leaders communicated via the Navy Marine Corps Intranet using BlackBerry devices with built-in cellular phone, e-mail and text messaging services. A team of reservists helped locate many of Mingo’s employees through known contact information.

Mingo’s team also employed the services of the Navy’s Global Distance Support Group call center, which opened up a 250-port phone bridge so the command could receive calls and e-mail messages from employees.

“As an active-duty Navy reservist, Capt. Mingo has a perspective of the department that covers the full gamut of the Navy/Marine Corps mission,” said Robert Carey, deputy CIO for the Navy Department. “This perspective has been invaluable in posturing the Navy to better operate and defend its systems under extreme circumstances.”

The magnitude of the storm also affected the command’s server farm. After a network failure, an on-site recovery team had to carry servers and computers from the top floor of a five-story building, Mingo said. They reinstalled the computers at backup sites in Fort Worth, Texas.

“Our ability to bring systems back online as quickly as we did is a success story,” Mingo said.

He is quick to acknowledge that recovery is a team effort. “There should be recognition for the whole team,” he said. But he added that “it takes a champion to keep people focused — I guess I did that.”

As the nation turns its attention away from New Orleans, Spawar employees face a long recovery, he said. Meanwhile, most of them are back in New Orleans, where they have started training for the upcoming hurricane season.

Photos copyright 2006 Stan Barouh .

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