By Sarah E. Lupescu
Missouri National Guard
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (2/5/13) - About 25 Missouri National Guard Soldiers and Airmen helped state officials close public assistance cases dating from 2007-2011.
The 16-month project, Operation Cold Case, completed at the end of 2012.
Operation Cold Case assisted the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency in closing numerous public assistance cases from 11 different disasters. Gov. Jay Nixon assigned the National Guard the Cold Case mission to assist SEMA.
During the mission, Missouri Soldiers and Airmen helped SEMA close the vast number of public assistance cases they had received as a result of the disasters in the past few years, said Maj. Brian Sayer, the current operations officer for Operation Cold Case.
"Operation Cold Case was an invention," Sayer said. "It was a program because there was assistance needed. In conjunction with the governor's office, SEMA, and the Missouri National Guard, it was decided that this was a mission that Missouri National Guard Soldiers and Airmen could do."
The Missouri National Guard members began the mission in early August 2011. They were presented with more than 1,160 cases for closure.
"The local emergency operation centers were not getting reimbursed for their reimbursable expenses," Sayer said. "Reimbursable expenses could be if they had to purchase fuel to run a generator or water pumps."
In the beginning of Operation Cold Case, Missouri Guard members established and operated a call center where contact could be made with public assistance applicants. Upon reaching the listed points of contact, an inquiry was made as to the status of the work projects, the expected dates of completion, which forms were or were not submitted and what assistance the applicant needed in closing the file. The information gathered was then given to SEMA to assist with building case files for closure.
Missouri and Air Guard personnel worked as field agents for SEMA. The Soldiers and Airmen made contact and scheduled appointments with applicants, obtained signatures on closing documents and, if necessary, inspect and document the work performed.
Also, Guard personnel inspected and obtained copies of permits, inspected force account and mitigation issues. The field agents submitted reports to SEMA for processing, resulting in eventual payment of the state share to the applicant.
Filling the 25 slots for the operation was a simple task for the Missouri Guard.
"The Soldiers and Airmen were all volunteers," Sayer said. "In Missouri, we never have problems getting volunteers. When we say we have a mission, we always have plenty of willing Guardsmen."
The Guard members were divided up into teams and the teams each worked in an assigned region. As Operation Cold Case progressed, the teams and regions shifted as necessary.
"I think the mission was fantastic," Sayer said. "Out of 11,062 cases, 11,005 cases were successfully completed. I think that's pretty good. And some of the Emergency Operations Centers might not have ever gotten the paperwork completed if the Guard wasn't brought in to help."