by Karen Gleason –
“I’m fortunate in that doors of opportunity kept opening,” John Berglund told New Frontier, at the end of his first week as The Salvation Army’s national emergency disaster services (EDS) director, a position that has stood vacant for the past year and a half.
Previously he was part of the Western Territory’s EDS team, first as Southwest’s divisional disaster director, and then for two years as the West’s territorial training coordinator. He is also a trainer for IHQ’s Emergency Services Department, the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation and Medic First Aid International. He has a 25-year professional history as an executive director in the nonprofit field, and for the past ten years he taught nonprofit management at Arizona State University.
Joining him in Alexandria, Virginia, are his wife of 25 years, Victoria, and their two children, Majken and Jakson.
In his new position at national headquarters, Berglund will coordinate all aspects of disaster response and service, including liaison duties with the federal government, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and other national agencies. His duties include keeping the Army engaged in all public policy and legislative matters relating to emergency disaster services; acting as a coordinating source for the territories in response to disasters; and assisting with the development of a national public policy agenda.
“A lot of this position is making sure we have the right resources and that communication is flowing smoothly,” said Berglund, who plans to streamline communication and standardize EDS work among the four territories. Each territory functions independently—differences may exist in language, culture, equipment and resources. “Knowing what our resources are and how to rally when needed—that takes coordination,” he continued. A protocol is in place for dealing with emergencies, from local to national. In a national emergency, which the government would declare, a federal response plan would go into effect; The Salvation Army is part of that plan, with a specific role to fill.
Berglund reports to National Community Relations & Development Secretary, Major George Hood. For the next year, he will also serve as project manager for the National Disaster Training Program, developing a program that will eventually be available for territorial implementation.
Berglund brings extensive hands-on experience to the position. Last year he worked four hurricanes, and was on the road assisting in disasters for a total of three months. In 2003, he worked in Iraq for three months, rebuilding schools, and recently he served on a team in Kuwait, training Iraqi volunteers in humanitarian services.
Berglund enjoys liaising with other agencies, and emphasizes the importance of clear communication. “This is the age of partnerships,” he noted; “the more we can collaborate and partner—the more good we can achieve.”