Shasta Detour

Earlier this week, I abruptly drove 4.5 hours north to Shasta Dam.

I had to drive that far in order to get an Enrollment Appointment for my Federal ID Card, also known as a Personal Identity Verification, or PIV (sigh…) credential.

A subset of Antarctic support personnel are required to use these cards, based on criteria relating to one’s job category and level of IT access. It’s fairly common for IT folks, and my job is one of those that requires one.

Normally the process is straightforward:

  1. You are “Sponsored” for a Federal ID Card by a federal agency, in our case the NSF.
  2. You make an “Enrollment Appointment” at a credentialing center where you show two forms of ID and get fingerprinted and photographed.
  3. In ~2 weeks, your card is ready. You make a “Card Pickup and Activation” appointment, where you again show your two forms of ID and pick up / activate your card.

For a number of reasons, this year’s timeline is a bit tighter than normal.

First – I’m deploying at Winfly instead of Summer, which means I will depart the US in mid-August. A credentialing schedule that works for summer participants will not work for me, since I’ll already be gone.

Second – There were delays in kicking off the ID card sponsorship program this year, partially due to delays in the NSF background check process.

What this means is that I wasn’t sponsored until July 18 (!!). That doesn’t leave a lot of time to execute a multi-week credentialing process in time for a mid-August departure.

To speed-run through the process as rapidly as possible, and to maximize the chance of getting my ID card before I deploy, every day mattered. The credentialing center here in San Francisco had availability no earlier than July 26. That would have meant an entire week of downtime, incurring delays which could jeopardize the process.

Instead, after expanding the search a bit further, I found a location at the US Bureau of Reclamation site at Shasta Dam with immediate availability.

I spoke with a USAP representative, who assured me that the US Government appreciated willingness to jump through hoops to meet administrative requirements. I was sent on my way, up I-5, for the earliest available appointment.

On its face, driving 9 hours for this endeavor seems absurd.

Looking deeper though… actually no, wait, it’s still absurd. I drove 9 hours, to sit in a tiny office in the Shasta Dam visitor center, so someone could scan my passport into a webapp.

I’m sure this won’t be the last time I make a Heroic Sacrifice(™) in the pursuit of science.

Jokes aside, I recognize we’re all part of a larger administrative machine that’s largely outside any of our individual control. Everybody involved here made the best decision possible with the information they were given, under the circumstances presented to them.

Shasta Dam Shasta Dam

I’ll be glad when I’m safely on a flight to McMurdo, holding onto that silly little card for dear life.

EDIT 2022-08-01: I picked up the card successfully! Bureaucratic hurdle: overcome.

Ice flight in 29 days!!