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Marines participate in “Operation Food Sort”

By Jason M. Webb | | January 28, 2010

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Many people in the local area benefited from the Salvation Army this past holiday season, whether it was for food, shelter or toys in conjunction with the Toys for Tots program.

Now that the holiday season is over, all the additional donated food is piling up and hard to manage.

Help managing eight months worth food stock came Jan. 9 when 35 Marines from Detachment 2, Supply Company, 4th Supply Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve, in the way of putting order to 16 palettes of donated canned and dry food.

“If you could, picture about 16 palettes of stacked boxes of mixed can goods, about an eight-month supply of food,” said Capt. Douglas McClure, Salvation Army. “Over the next 12 hours they transformed it into separate palettes of corn, green beans and other items. They also stocked pantries as well as our shelter and storage pantries and pulled out all of the expired food, which is a huge task.”

Not only were the Marines giving back to the community, they were also working and honing their skills as warehouse Marine reservists during their monthly drill week. An accomplishment that took a day and a half of sorting.

“We organized it like a warehouse would be organized,” said 1st Sgt. James Watson, first sergeant, Inspector-Instructor, Det. 2. “The reserve Marines used their warehouse organization skills to help the Salvation Army while training in their military occupational specialty.”

The idea to help the Salvation Army was first started in 1986 for Watson.

As first sergeant, he has the ability to use his Marines to help the community, especially when it develops their on-the-job capabilities.

As a young Marine, he benefited from the Salvation Army when he was fighting fires in the mountains surrounding Los Angeles as an infantryman. He remembered the Salvation Army providing sustenance to him and his fellow Marines after days of fighting the fires.  Since then he has made it his aim to give back to the organization that helped him early on in his career.

After working closely with the local Salvation Army in the Toys for Tots program, he saw the need to help them work more efficiently to help others.

“They’ve had all these donations of canned goods and they just didn’t have the manpower to sort it,” Watson said. “So we provided the manpower for them. As reservists and Marines, they live and work in the community, so it’s good for them to share that experience, that warmth knowing that they helped another human being get a hot meal down the road.”

For McClure, he was happy to get the much needed help with sorting all of the donations.

“It was absolutely amazing. They did what we probably could have never done. They did it with a level of efficiency, and in a time frame, that would have taken us weeks to months to get it to that level,” he said. “I can’t thank them enough. It was an incredible service. It was one of those things that people don’t think about. It was behind the scenes and not out in the public, yet it has such an impact in so many people’s lives. The efficiency of our food pantry and shelters is going to be greatly increased because of what they did.”

Watson sees it as Marines doing what Marines do best, helping those in need.

“It’s an impact helping others and you may someday see yourself on the receiving end. I truly believe that you should help as much as you can. You never know when you are going to be on the receiving end,” Watson added.

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