Oroville Response: Mission Engineer Steps Up

Posted March 17, 2017 at 12:27 pm

(l/r) David Simcox, an account rep. for Mission Linen in Chico, CA; and Matthew Augelli, district manager for Mission Chico; provide linens to 1st Lt. Eric Neubauer (later promoted to captain) for use by civilians who took shelter at a National Guard Armory during the recent flooding near Oroville, CA.  

For textile service companies that employ veterans who are also military reservists, the prospect of a deployment is always a possibility.

That likelihood became a reality last month for Eric Neubauer, an engineer for Mission Linen Supply who was working on a new plant east of San Francisco, when the Oroville Dam crisis erupted in mid-February. Neubauer, a captain in the California National Guard, was ordered to active duty as the danger of a flood disaster loomed in the community about 90 minutes north of Sacramento.

“I had to respond to the Oroville dam, to prepare for evacuations,” Capt. Neubauer says. “I was called up for that.”  

Heavy rainfall this winter, coupled with a crack in the dam, threatened to flood the area and forced the temporary evacuation of some 200,000 people, according to news reports. Temporary repairs to the dam prevented a major catastrophe, but there were some tense moments for Capt. Neubauer, who was tasked with leading a group of national guard troops to provide assistance if needed.

Neubauer said he learned from his service in the regular army how to approach missions quickly, but in a very systematic fashion. Although this was a civilian disaster-response effort, he used the same methods to deal with the Oroville situation.  “We get called up, so I’m there at the armory and about an hour later I’m informed, ‘By the way you’re going to be in charge of 40 soldiers and tons of equipment, and you’re going up to Oroville. You need to roll out in about an hour.’ So you’re handed that and you have to plan, prepare, execute and assess. You’re reassessing at every stage.”

As it turned out, state authorities avoided the worst-case scenario of a dam failure by making temporary repairs and diverting 52 feet of water into nine upstream reservoirs. Click here and here for details.

Capt. Neubauer said the emergency response and the approach he took to dealing with it wasn’t all that much different from the way he’d respond to a major equipment breakdown or similar problem in a laundry. In both cases you have to plan, prepare, execute and assess on short notice. Mission Linen colleagues located about half an hour away in the company’s Chico, CA, plant also responded to a call from Capt. Neubauer for assistance during the flooding. They helped by donating linens for several evacuated families of National Guard troops who had deployed to the Middle East in support of operations there.

“Just north of Oroville, we have an armory about half an hour away and that’s where we staged,” Capt. Neubauer said. “It was up near the Chico Mission Linen plant. We were at the armory, and were accepting the families of soldiers that had deployed from our unit. They drove to our armory and were sleeping there. We weren’t prepared for this situation, so I called up the Chico Mission Linen branch and asked them to supply some linens for the cots for these civilians. Of course they did.”

Watch for follow-up coverage of Capt. Neubauer in May’s Textile Services magazine as we salute veterans who also are leaders in the linen, uniform and facility services industry. TRSA also is planning to recognize all veterans who work in the laundry industry at a special breakfast during the Clean Show. TRSA’s Military Veterans Breakfast is from 6:45-7:45 a.m., June 7, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. This event will welcome all U.S. veterans from every branch of the armed services. Click here for details on this program and others that are part of this year’s “TRSA Clean Show Experience.”