Blount Island Command reaches out to civilian community with Open House

4 Jun 2009 | Art Powell

Civic and business leaders from the Jacksonville, Fla., region were invited to a Community Open House at Blount Island Command May 4.

“We want to ensure the community knows that we are good stewards of the national treasure we’re entrusted with and we always look forward to discuss the changes along with the anticipated growth and opportunities for the command,” said Col. Joseph K. Haviland, commanding officer, BICMD. “We remain a quiet neighbor in Jacksonville and we value the community’s support,” he added.

More than 90 civilian and military guests were invited to the Marine Corps port operation to receive briefings and tours of the facility, which is adjacent to the giant Jacksonville Port terminal, operated by the city of Jacksonville. 

JAXPort is one of the largest commercial ports along the East coast of the United States.

“Some leaders in this area know a lot about the command because we support civic events when possible. For others, it may be their first visit to Blount Island Command. Normally, when someone comes here for the first time, we get a ‘Wow’ because they really had no idea what we do from an operational perspective,” Haviland added.

The mission for LOGCOM’s Maritime Prepositioning Force, based at Blount Island, is to provide prepositioned equipment and supplies that can be linked with Navy and Marine forces outside the continental United States during a crisis or incident.

BICMD’s three Maritime Prepositioning Squadrons are on-station in the Mediterranean, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and near Guam and Saipan in the Western Pacific.

“If you draw a concentric ring around each squadron representing their primary area of responsibility, you will get a sense for the strategic reach of the program and the associated force closure times as the ships can sail quickly,” observed Haviland during a recent interview.

The MPF ships range in size from approximately 44,000 to 55,000 tons displacement, and from 673 to 906 feet in length.

Two squadrons have five vessels assigned, the third has six. Each ship is named after a Marine Corps Medal of Honor recipient.

Located on the St. Johns River about seven miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean in Jacksonville, Fla., BICmd is the hub for servicing and supplying the assets aboard the Maritime Prepositioning Ships.

While the ships are on station at sea most of the time, they return to Blount Island approximately every three years where the hundreds of container loads and vehicles stored on them is off-loaded, inspected, serviced and the ships go into dry dock for maintenance and inspection before being reloaded to return to their duty station.

“We want the Marine Corps leadership and the local community to know that we are evolving here. There are investments being made here in our infrastructure and our core competencies, so we are able to offer more services and support to the Marine Corps. For example, we provided Seaport Embarkation Services to the recent surge of equipment earmarked for Afghanistan. Bringing that equipment here for us to sort and load was a core competency for us,” explained Haviland. “As we can expand a service based on an opportunity, normally leads to another, and that becomes a great enabler for us.”

Civic and business leaders who attended the Open House looked forward to the tour, even if they had previously visited BICMD.

“I’ve been through the warehouses before but I’m interested to see what’s new out here now and what they are capable of accomplishing,” said John Parker, a local hotel manager. “When they’re loading a ship and you see all the equipment spread out in the parking area, it’s amazing. I don’t think the average person knows what goes on here.”

Others in attendance knew the strategic importance of the work at BICmd.

“What this base does for the Marine Corps, on the whole, isn’t understood. I don’t think a lot of local people realize that. They think it’s just a military base,” said Phillip Bocchieri, a Jacksonville based businessman. “But the amount of traffic that comes through here is pretty extensive.”

One attendee saw the bustling port complex as something that grew out of early efforts to clear the mouth of the St. John’s River to allow access to the current harbor.

“Today, I want to learn more about port operations here from a business perspective and update the material for my book on how the port area in Jacksonville developed,” said Neil McGuiness, another local businessman attending the Open House. “They had to put in jetties and dredge a channel to get in from the ocean, and today’s it’s a huge commercial operation.”

Change has been constant at Jacksonville port facilities, both civilian and military.

“There’s change in the Maritime Prepositioning Force program. Ships and equipment are getting bigger, the move to MPF-Future involves new concepts and ties very closely to Sea-Basing, and how the Marine Corps will posture itself from a sea base using the MPF platforms to project combat power from over the horizon,” said Haviland, “A lot of those platforms are going to be critical to this program.”

Haviland, holds several billets including commanding officer, BICMD; commanding officer, LOGCOM Forward and commanding officer, Marine Corps Support Facility, Blount Island, is leaving June 5 for a billet within Installations and Logistics, Headquarters Marine Corps, after 22 months of service at the Jacksonville facility.

“Change, growth and opportunity applies to what we do here at Blount Island Command and to me on a personal level. It’s time for a change of duty station. There’s an opportunity for me to help the Marine Corps in a new capacity and I will take what I’ve learned here,” said Haviland. “I’m excited about what’s in front of me and I feel satisfied with what’s behind me, but the future looks very promising for this command. I want to wish my replacement, Colonel Steve Peters,  a very successful tour and I’m sure he’ll take the command to new heights of excellence because he’ll have a great team to work with, just like I did.”

Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany