LAFAYETTTE — New Iberia native Capt. Albert “Al” Matt has recently returned home to Lafayette from New Orleans after serving on a seven-week military deployment as part of the Department of Defense’s whole-of-government response to COVID-19.
Matt, known as “Ol Bleu” to many of his shipmates, is a Navy Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer (NEPLO). He is a 37-year veteran who has served as a NEPLO for the past four years.
As a NEPLO, the Lafayette resident is trained in Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA).
From mid-February until he returned home from New Orleans in late April, Matt was heavily engaged in managing Department of Defense assets to mitigate the pandemic in Texas and Louisiana.
“Early on, I led planning in Texas, preparing for repatriation flights from overseas — later I coordinated the rapid deployment of the Navy’s largest Expeditionary Medical Facility Unit (EMF) to Louisiana and ensured contracts and resources were in place, allowing our EMF to immediately support the Greater New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas,” Matt said.
The NEPLO program consists of 138 Navy Reserve personnel. Most are senior officers. During natural and man-made disasters, NEPLOs assist in providing Navy resources where needed.
U.S. Northern Command has led the overall nationwide effort by the Department of Defense.
“When disasters exceed a state’s ability to respond, the Department of Defense is often asked to support, and that is where NEPLOs jump-in,” said Capt. Steven Stacy, NEPLO Deputy Commander.
“Our team has a unique set of skills not replicated by the active duty Navy. We possess the know-how to get Navy resources and capabilities into the fight,” Stacy said.
According to Matt, “NEPLO’s provide DSCA training to Navy unit leaders and commanders, making them capable to respond to any number of domestic emergencies.”
“This training ensures DOD forces responds in a timely manner with appropriate resources while adhering to U.S. federal laws and regulations in a civilian centric environment,” Matt said.
In the past, NEPLOs have deployed to assist with hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires.
One of the most rewarding aspects of this assignment, he said, was building relationships with federal, state, and local leaders, but the ultimate satisfaction comes from serving citizens in need.
“In general terms, we are troubleshooters, problem solvers, deal brokers, masters of dispute resolution, and experts at dealing with the unknown — I’ve loved this assignment!” Matt said.
This NEPLO deployment may be the last big job of Matt’s long military career: he plans to retire this July.
Matt grew-up in New Iberia and is a graduate of the University of Louisiana and the Naval War College. He joined the Louisiana National Guard in 1983. He has traveled to over 90 countries in direct support of contingency operations since 9-11. In addition to flying C-130s airplanes as a Naval aviator, he has flown UH-1 and AH-64 helicopters as an Army aviator.
Over the years, Matt has served on several foreign military staffs. Most notably, he worked as a senior operations leader with the South Korean Navy. He was a crisis action team leader with United Nations Forces in Korea, and a senior naval liaison officer with the Japanese Self Defense Force.
“I’ve been fortunate to command, lead, and serve personnel from every U.S. uniformed service — and I’ve worked with so many U.S. government agencies at home and abroad,” Matt said.
His personal awards include the Legion of Merit and Meritorious Service medals. During his numerous assignments with the Navy, he’s honed his skills in emergency management, contingency operations, and strategic planning.
Following his Navy Reserve retirement, Matt will continue his civilian career as a pilot for an air cargo carrier, and he looks forward to spending more time with his daughters and other loved ones.