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68 Proceedings Spring 2015 www.uscg.mil/proceedings The morning the tow- ers came down, I was stuck in Florida. The new members of my team (Pacific Strike Te a m) we r e goi n g through their required 40 -hou r ha za rdou s m at er i a l s r e sp on s e training at the Atlan- tic Strike Team (AST) in New Jersey, in their first training courses t o w a r d b e c o m i n g professional respond- ers. Most of the NSF's newly reported per- sonnel were in New Jersey at that time, pursuing professional qualifcations and certifcations. Because the attacks were in New York and in the AST's area of responsibility, when the call came in that morning, the AST was the frst out the door. And as soon as the newest NSF responders were fnished with their 40-hour, the very minimum to respond, they were deployed as well. "The AST was the first out the door." CK: Tell me about operations on the ground. How was it different than other responses? RDML Austin: When I arrived at "Ground Zero," I relieved CAPT Gail Kulisch (ret.), then AST commanding offcer, as incident commander of ESF-10 response operations on scene. It became immediately evident we needed to use the With a Coast Guard career st rong i n operat iona l response, RDML Austin assumed com ma nd of the Pacifc Strike Team in July 2001, with responsi- bilities to respond to oil and hazardous materi- als disc harges for t he U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Pro- tection Agency for the Western United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Pacifc territories. In June 2004, she assumed com- mand of the entire NSF, consisting of the three regional strike teams, the Public Information Assist Team, and the National Strike Force Coordination Center. CK: You have such a diverse response background and a long history with the NSF. Please describe September 11 th as the commanding offcer of the Pacifc Strike Team. How did a single crisis change the paradigm of response and the fabric of the NSF? RDML Austin: When 9/11 occurred, the National Strike Force did very little outside of oil and hazardous substance response. It had done some work with naturally occurring biological materials, but those responses were in a relatively controlled environment. We didn't yet have a fully defned mission in chemical, biological, and radiological (CBR) response. The initial response to 9/11 and the unknown of the chemical biological piece were very different from the response and recovery, the ebb and fow, of oil and hazard- ous substance source control we were used to. Leadership in a Time of Crisis An interview with former NSF commanding offcer, RDML Meredith Austin. by lt cHriStoPHer KiMrey Assistant Chief of Incident Management U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Francisco Incident Management As the scale and complexity of incident management and crisis response grows, so does the need for adaptive leadership, innovation, and vision. Although the National Strike Force (NSF) has a long and storied history, the changes experienced dur- ing the past 15 years were unprec edented. H ere we share a unique insight into this transitional period through one of its key leaders, RDML Meredith Austin. Rear Admiral Meredith L. Austin, former Commander of the Pacifc Strike Team, and current Commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Personnel Service Center.