MSU Alumni Bring Mississippi Virtues to Maui Emergency Response Mission

While more than 50,000 fans and alumni gathered at Mississippi State University’s Davis Wade Stadium to cheer the Bulldogs for their college football season opener against Southeastern Louisiana State University, Sept. 2, two U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Honolulu District employees who are Mississippi State alumni were cheering them on in spirit while supporting emergency response efforts to the recent Hawai’i wildfires.

Brittany Keyes, a mission specialist with the Honolulu District Power Planning and Response Team, is from Laurel, Mississippi, and a 2013 graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences at Mississippi State. Jon Runnels, a quality assurance specialist and logistician, is from Pass Christian, Mississippi, and is a 2015 graduate of the Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State. Runnels works as a project engineer for the Honolulu District Construction Branch.

USACE’s Power Planning and Response Teams oversee the installation, maintenance and overall management of Federal Emergency Management Agency generators that provide temporary emergency power to critical infrastructure, critical care facilities and municipal buildings for Federal Emergency Management Agency mission assignments.

Keyes is responsible for personnel accountability, documenting the team’s mission-related actions and contractor performance. When she is not participating in emergency response missions, Keyes serves as a management and program analyst at the Honolulu District. She joined the Power PRT to share a piece of the kindness she said she has experienced at her alma mater.

“Many times, I’ve witnessed Mississippi State University pull together for their students, their faculty and their community in times of crisis and despair because ‘Bulldog Nation’ is family,” said Keyes. “Likewise, the USACE Honolulu District Power Team is honored to show up for our Maui ‘Ohana in a time of crisis. Of all the skills MSU has equipped me with, a heart of compassion and kindness is of the utmost importance, and that is what I proudly display throughout this mission.”


Runnels has served in multiple positions on previous emergency responses. During the USACE response to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria in 2017 and 2018, he served as a quality assurance specialist, a quality assurance lead, and office engineer.

In his full-time job at Honolulu District, Runnels is a project engineer in the district’s Construction Branch. On Maui, Runnels has been a QA on the swing shift, checking generators to ensure they were properly maintained, and is now tracking generators to ensure accountability.

“Being able to help others in a time of need, I don’t see a higher calling than that. To rise to that calling, there’s just nothing more important,” said Runnels “It’s not uncommon to stop and help people in Mississippi when you see someone broken down on the side of the road. It’s just something Mississippians do. It’s the right thing to do.”

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