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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

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Suspicious package causes stir

By Nathan L. Hanks Jr. | | February 24, 2011

Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany Police Department officers responded to a call of a suspicious package reported inside the Base Post Office here, Feb. 16.

Cpl. Shavonda Williams, military postal clerk, Manpower Division, MCLB Albany, recognized the parcel after receiving a brief regarding suspicious packages earlier that morning.

The package was found to be benign and considered not a threat, according to base officials.

Marine Corps Installations East’s Mission Assurance Section sent an e-mail advisory that morning to all its subordinate commands regarding suspicious packages that had been delivered to several Army bases throughout the U.S.

After the notification, a MCLB Albany mission assurance officer delivered the warning to the post office and advised the clerks to be on the lookout for similar packages. The parcels were described as originating from Fresno, Calif., from an alias with various return addresses, in a manila envelope about the size of a book.

Within minutes of the U.S. Postal Service daily mail run, Williams discovered a package matching the advisory.

“As I began to sort the morning mail, I recognized a package from a brief I received earlier that morning, warning us be on the lookout for a possible suspicious package,” she said. “Once I found it, I grabbed the e-mail advisory and verified that the package was indeed the one in question.”

MCLB Albany Police Department was then notified and police officers responded, secured the mailroom and requested an explosive detector dog to evaluate the package.

“The dog did alert twice on the package which possibly indicated some type of explosive residue or material may have been transferred to the package

by someone who had contact with the package,” said Bill McNulty, director, Public Safety Division, MCLB Albany.

The Emergency Operations Center was activated once MCLB Albany officials learned there was a possibility of explosives in the package.

According to Bob James, senior watch officer, EOC, the EOC was set up to provide assistance to the incident commander if needed.

“One of the EOC’s responsibilities is to provide Headquarters Marine Corps and Marine Corps Installations East, our higher headquarters, with information regarding the situation as it occurs,” James said. “Keeping everyone informed was vital to the successful outcome of the situation.”

As reports were being sent to higher headquarters, base personnel were kept aware of the situation through e-mail and mass notification.

At the same time, Building 3600 was evacuated and an explosives ordnance disposal team from Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., was requested by the incident commander.

While waiting for the EOD team to arrive, more than 200 personnel were evacuated from Building 3600, which houses the Base Post Office, Navy Federal Credit Union and Building 3610, an adjacent complex of temporary office trailers with about 100 employees. Initially, the employees were moved to an adjacent field but were later transported to the Base Chapel and Marine Corps Exchange where they remained until the situation was resolved.

Once the EOD team arrived they began to examine the package.

According to McNulty, the EOD team was called in as a precaution, just in case the package contained explosives. It took the EOD team about an hour to determine the contents of the package were harmless.

After the EOD team completed their assessment, the MCLB Albany Fire Department was called in to further examine the package and collect forensic evidence. The package was then sent to a Naval Criminal Investigative Service forensic lab for further analysis.

An additional sweep of Building 3600 revealed no other suspicious packages and the building was cleared at 1:30 p.m.

Once it was determined that the package was not a threat, the employees returned to their work stations.

As acting Commanding Officer of MCLB Albany, Lt. Col. Don Finn, said he could not be more proud of how the situation turned out.

“Corporal Williams did the right thing,” he said. “She took the initiative and made the call.”

According to Finn, a day-long anti-terrorism force protection tabletop training exercise helped prepare base personnel in their professional response to the suspicious package found in the post office.

“We trained for this type of scenario, suspicious package, during the ATFP exercise in December,” he said. “The reason we conducted the exercise in December was to prepare for a real-world situation such as this. We do this to protect the civilian-Marines, Marines and their families who work and live on MCLB Albany.”

James added there were valuable lessons learned during the training scenario.

“Through the training exercise, we were aware of the procedures and protocols of handling suspicious packages, layout and design of Building 3600 and what organizations occupy the building,” he said.

Finn said everyone worked together and adjusted when needed to make sure the outcome was successful. He summed up the day’s event in three words: initiative, action and teamwork.

“If you see a suspicious package or activity, call 9-1-1!,” James stressed. “Don’t be afraid!”