MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. --
The Atlantic hurricane season has yet to produce a major storm that threatened landfall, but that doesn’t mean base officials don’t watch the tropical weather every day.
“We monitor the tropical weather daily, looking for any developments that may eventually impact the Southeastern United States,” said John Richard, operations and plans specialist, Base Operations and Civilian Training Branch, Operations and Training Division, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Ga. “We look at forecasts and watch tropical waves that come off the coast of Africa and track their progress toward the United States. If it appears they may threaten us, we start planning for evacuations to our base.”
Should a hurricane threaten selected military installations on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, the base is the approved evacuation site for them.
Base resources and plans are in place for supplying the needs of what could turn out to be thousands of people, according to Richard.
“We have equipment we would use to prepare the base as a safe haven for evacuations because of tropical events like hurricanes. We have agreements with the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, and permanent party personnel at the Naval Air Stations in Pensacola and Jacksonville,” said John Hoffpauir, facilities manager, Public Works Branch, Installation and Environment Division, MCLB Albany.
Public Works personnel recently erected a field shower unit near Warehouse 1230 here to test its readiness should there be an evacuation here this summer.
It is one of five such units which uses water from a bladder under field conditions, but is connected to a water supply while on base.
“Each one contains 12 shower units and six sinks. The units give us the capacity to provide showers for evacuees every day,” he added.
While the cold water showers are important to evacuees, other services the base would provide are also important.
“These are just a small part of what we provide for safe havens. We also provide cots, utilities and feed Meals, Ready to Eat, supplemented with fresh fruit and other staples, depending on how long they’ll be here,” said Hoffpauir, who’s been involved with evacuation preparations for 20 years.
MCLB Albany has a long history of providing safe haven to evacuees. The largest event, according to Hoffpauir, was approximately 10,000 Parris Island personnel at one time during the ‘90s.
Checking and testing the prepositioned equipment for evacuations means support personnel who would be involved during actual events “train like the Marines,” according to Hoffpauir.
“If we received notification that evacuees were going to be here in six hours, we could have these shower units up and ready for them when they arrived,” he stated. Hoffpauir was stationed at MCRD Parris Island, S.C., in the 1970s and saw, first-hand, the destruction a hurricane could bring to that area.
“I personally witnessed Parris Island, which is 15 feet above sea-level at its highest point, basically go underwater. That left a lasting memory, and the work I do here is just a little something I can do to help Marines,” explained Hoffpauir.
Personnel working to support evacuees here are frequently former and retired Marines now employed at MCLB Albany.
Most civilian personnel involved in evacuation services have been through real-world hurricanes before.
“The last time we had evacuees here was several years ago and we used just one shower unit then,” said Robert Dixon, operations officer, Public Works Branch. “The Marines loved this unit. It was a place they could brush their teeth and take a real shower. A shower unit like this is the best thing we can do for so many people at one time.”
Food, shelter, sanitary services and showers are all important, but a retired Marine knows first-hand the value of a shower.
“A shower means everything when you come in out of the field,” said William Graves, production controller, Public Works Branch, who retired from the Marine Corps as a master sergeant after 28 years of service. “When I was on active duty, we didn’t have facilities such as this. We had a general purpose tent with a 3,000-gallon water bladder out back and, if we were lucky, we had palleted floors. There was no privacy.”
While evacuation support plans are in place here, the hope is that the devastating storms and destruction that comes with them remain out of the news for the rest of the hurricane season.
The Atlantic hurricane season ends Nov. 1.