As Hurricane Dorian pummeled the east coast, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany opened its installation gates as a safe haven location for thousands of recruits and Marines from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. More than 6,000 recruits, several drill instructors and other support personnel from the training depot evacuated to MCLB Albany, Sept. 3.
“It could be anywhere from 190 hours out, it all depends on where that storm starts to show a track that it’s going to impact one of our installations,” Steven Dancer, installation emergency manager, MCLB Albany, remarked.
Dancer explained the installation initial preparation started with reviewing MCLB Albany’s memorandum of agreements with bases that are in the direct path of a storm. Once the base is identified, in this case, MCRD Parris Island, Dancer analyzed how MCLB Albany can support the evacuation mission in terms of water, shower trailers, street closures and most importantly key warehouses for Marines and recruits to sleep and continue recruit training.
“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” Dancer explained.
It’s not Dancer’s first rodeo handling troop evacuations. In 2016, more than 6,000 recruits and support personnel evacuated here due to Hurricane Matthew. MCLB Albany has memorandum of agreements with several military installations where the base is the designated evacuation location for sites like MCRD Parris Island where recruit training can continue until weather conditions improve to allow for a safe return to the depot.
On Tuesday morning, MCRD Parris Island Commanding General James F. Glynn gave the order to evacuate post Governor Henry McMaster’s mandatory evacuation of Beaufort County, South Carolina – the county MCRD PI is located. Several commercial buses began to arrive at MCLB Albany throughout Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Once the main body starts transit, then we’re 24/7 (in the emergency operations center) so we have everybody here (to support the troops),” Dancer said.
While at MCLB Albany, recruits can conduct a variety of training events, to include close order drill, land navigation, martial arts and infantry patrolling techniques.
“India Company is at a good point in training where we can accomplish the same training missions here with MCMAP … we’re able to do knowledge and testing and drills,” MCRD Parris Island India Company Commander, Capt. Tiffany Aguiar, explained.
Aguiar said drill instructors were prepared to adapt the training schedule. In fact, recruits received more individual time with their drill instructors where they could reiterate and instruct while at a different location.
“We maintained platoon integrity with the senior drill instructors and have the same accountability that we would have at Parris Island … we’re not losing any discipline,” Aguiar remarked.
Dancer explained accommodating such a large troop footprint didn’t come without challenges. The biggest issues were managing the influx of commercial buses on the installation and coordinating with the state and local law enforcement and emergency management personnel. Nevertheless, MCLB Albany personnel stood ready to support the mission.
“It’s something outside of the norm of what we do day-to-day, (but) everyone embraced the challenge,” Dancer said.
MCLB Albany’s Commanding Officer Col. Alphonso Trimble said the installation was more than prepared to host the large group from PISC.
"We conduct various exercises throughout the year to ensure our installation remains ready for evacuations of this magnitude," Trimble said. "It is an honor to host our fellow Marines and the recruits from Parris Island to ensure they are out of harm's way."
The evacuation came ahead of the impending catastrophic storm, according to Col. Sean Killeen, commanding officer, Task Force Albany, MCRD, Parris Island.
"Having a place to go to where we can train, specifically here in Albany, and continue that program of instruction ensures that we get the necessary Marines out to the Marine Corps to be able to do what we do, which is help defend the nation," Killeen pointed out.
Officials at MCRD PISC are continuing to monitor Hurricane Dorian and will conduct appropriate follow-on actions as deemed necessary in accordance with updated weather conditions. Updated weather information regarding Parris Island will be made available at MCRD PISC's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ParrisIsland. The weather hotline for Parris Island is 1-800-343-0639 (option 3).
Personnel from Parris Island will return home once travel is deemed safe.